My first psychic was about six feet tall, with a plume of yellow hair that recalled both Phyllis Diller and Big Bird, a chain smoker who read my future — rather accurately — by flipping through a deck of playing cards. She punctuated important moments in the reading with jabs of her long brown cigarette: You. Are. Going. To. Move. To A City. With Mountains. (I moved to Denver two years later.)
So much for the gypsy with the headscarf and the crystal ball. Jan Ross drank Diet Coke and kept Days of Our Lives on low in the next room. But she had skills, an ability to access information that was not available to me. She wasn’t a mystic; she was a conduit.
Theresa Caputo, famous for her big hair, big nails and big personality, all on display on her hit reality show, Long Island Medium, is a psychic of the Jan Ross variety. She talks to dead people (or, more accurately, dead people talk to her). It’s a gift given to her directly by God, she says. No big deal.
“I never really thought about it. I just trust Spirit,” she tells me by phone from Hicksville, New York, where she lives next door to her parents and her childhood home, in advance of her Friday, April 7, show in Denver. “I trust God with my gift, and, whatever my journey is, I know I’ll be put to the right path to continue to do healing work.
“Everything that I’ve learned, I learned through trust and, more important, through channeling Spirit,” she continues. “My signs and symbols, all of it changes every day due to the souls I channel.”
Long Island Medium follows Caputo, a former stay-at-home mom, practicing Catholic and uber-Italian, as she wanders her small town, giving loud, extemporaneous readings to the deli counter workers, dental hygienists and veterinarian assistants she encounters along the way. Many are at first incredulous to hear that Caputo has a message from a “departed love one"; most, by the end, appear stunned. How did this crazy woman know that my grandmother had a collection of old buttons stowed under her bed? Caputo’s answer is always the same: Spirit told me.
Let me just say: I believe Theresa, and I love Long Island Medium. The genesis and mechanics of her gift, which she’s explained in couple of books, including the new Good Grief, seem credible: She reports being tormented by visitations from spirits starting at age four; as an adult, she lived with terrible anxiety as she tried to suppress the energy that flowed through her from a place unknown. Later, with the encouragement of a family friend, she developed her gift through practice. On TV and in her live shows, her readings (albeit edited for prime time) are usually spot-on and specific.
Caputo doesn’t try that hard to convert skeptics (of which there are many):
“My goal as a medium is not for someone to be a believer in mediums,” she says. “Everyone has a right to their opinion. My goal is for you truly to know that there is more to life than here in the physical world. How I use my gift is only for the highest good of all concerned.”
But she did recently submit to a neurological test that showed an unusual type of brain activity when she channels.
“I call it a flatline,” she says. “When the doctor examined it, it’s like there’s nothing there. And that’s how I’ve always described it. It’s like, Spirit clears out my own thoughts, feelings and emotions, and when I read, it’s physically what I sense and feel from Spirit."
Like many of her fans, I find comfort in the spiritual implications of Caputo’s gift: If there does indeed exist a channel between the physical world and the next (whatever that may be), and a benevolent arcana that watches out for each of us, I’m less inclined to worry about bullshit. But Caputo doesn’t seem to care that much when someone assures her they believe her — as I did when we first spoke, hoping, as nearly every person who speaks to her must, that Spirit would have a message for me. (Prior to our ten-minute interview, I had to agree to the scheduler not to ask for a reading.)
Alas, Sunshine, my parakeet, didn’t come through. (Caputo says she can read animals as well as non-English speakers, as the spirit “information” is non-verbal, more like an energetic exchange or a download.) And neither did my mom, now nearly twelve years gone from the “physical world” that Theresa loves to remind us is not the only realm we share with those we love.
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“Everybody’s got a gut instinct, and there are a lot of questions: Is it real life, or is it something else?” she says. “I always refer to it as your little Jiminy Cricket. Is it your spirit guide? Is it your loved ones? Is it God? Whatever it is that you feel, something is guiding you, and never veer from that. Most important is to know that your loved ones’ souls are with you, and those little things that remind you of them — when you hear a song on the radio, or there’s dragonflies or butterflies — and they remind you of your mom or your father, embrace these signs. Because they are with you at that exact moment.
“That’s what I use my gift for,” she says. “I just want to help people embrace life.”
See Theresa Caputo at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 7, at Bellco Theatre at the Colorado Convention Center.