The first time spirit spoke to James Van Praagh as an adult it scared him silly.
He had left his native New York to live in Los Angeles with the goal of becoming a sitcom writer and was bouncing from job to job. A co-worker took him to meet medium Brian Hurst who had a message for him.
“As I walked in the door, the man looked at me and said: ‘You’re a medium and the spirit world are going to use you in two years time to help change the consciousness of the planet.’ And I thought this guy was crazy – the typical New Yorker in me who moved to California thinking this guy’s – you know – California people are fruits and nuts,” he says with a laugh.
The meeting left an impression and the young man’s curiosity was piqued. He began meditating and reading books on psychic phenomenon.
Van Praagh, now 57, says he began seeing spirits as a child. “I used to see things spontaneously, very much like the movie the Sixth Sense, but very positive images, never negative images. My mother said those are God’s angels, I never thought anything of it, children … what they see, they don’t judge.”
In his late 20s he was working in a TV studio; one day he returned from lunch along with a co-worker.
“I walked into my cubical, my co-worker walked into hers and I looked over and saw her dead grandmother standing behind her. And the dead grandmother looked right at me – scared the hell outta me – and said to me telepathically, ‘I’m her grandmother, tell her I’m OK, I’m in heaven,’ and she said, ‘You let her know about Idaho, the white house, the yellow shutters, and the needlepoint.’ And I’m like, ‘Oooh my God.’
‘That’s my grandmother,’ his co-worker confirmed. ‘She promised once she got to heaven she would come back and let me know she’s OK.’
At that point, he ran out of the studio and hid out in his apartment.
“I was freaking out. … I didn’t know who to call, because they would think it was crazy.” He called Hurst, who reminded him of the message from the spirit world.
“He said, ‘James don’t you remember the spirit world, the prediction they made for you that you’ll help change the consciousness of the planet? … James that was two years ago today.’”
From then on Van Praagh began a serious effort to hone his gift, something he says everyone can do.
“We’re born with intuition, which is our sixth sense, that’s our survival instinct, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to survive babyhood because we have that instinctive nature with our mothers that’s our intuition,” he says. “That can be definitely developed and used by every single person when they start going into their heart instead of their head and rationalizing.”
Van Praagh rose to national fame with his New York Times bestselling book Talking to Heaven, he has appeared on every major television talk show and was co-executive producer on the show Ghost Whisperer with Jennifer Love Hewitt, which ran for five seasons.
Still, bringing messages from loved ones is his passion.
“I’m really more of a teacher. What I do is I make sure, or my spirit guides make sure, the messages that come through, every single person in that audience will be able to relate to because every single person in the audience has a mother or a grandmother or a friend that passed away, or knew someone with a terminal illness or knew someone who got in an accident, so they can relate to that. They also can relate to forgiveness, regret, guilt, fun, expression – they can relate to that in their own lives.”
Van Praagh’s two hour Victoria Evening of Spirit at UVic Nov. 4, includes a guided healing and enlightening group meditation and bringing messages from deceased loved ones to some in the audience.
“What I say to people when I go on stage is that this experience is for everyone sitting in this room. I might be able to read 10, 20 people at the most. (The thought is) we’re here together, we’re here as one, in that we’re all human beings, so we all have human experiences we can relate to. Everybody’s been through birth, we have a little bit of an idea what that’s about. And we all want to know about death, so maybe this’ll help you understand a little bit more about death.”
Death, though, is just an illusion, he says. “You can’t kill energy. They just slipped out of the body and they’re more around you than ever before. The dead never leave without leaving gifts behind and somehow we have to find the courage to open up that gift, find out what they left behind and realize we’re never alone.”
James Van Praagh hosts an evening of spirit Nov. 4 at University Centre Farquhar Auditorium.