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October 01, 2010

The Psychic and Me

by Diane Chamberlain


I tell this story often to friends and acquaintances and anyone else who will listen because a) it fascinates me and b) I want someone to explain it away. So I offer it here in the hope that someone can explain it away.

Or not.

Here's the story.

About six years ago, I had dinner with my friend, Joyce, who mentioned that she went to a psychic (I'll call him Reverend Bob), which I thought was a ridiculous thing to do. I don't believe (or at least, I didn't) in psychic abilities, ghosts, heaven or hell, or mind reading (although I do have a profound belief in the Divine, but that's a different discussion). Joyce described her experience to me this way:

"Reverend Bob's the minister of a metaphysical church. I went in and they handed me a note card and I wrote the names of two people I wanted him to get in touch with. Then Reverend Bob held his hand over the note card and went into a sort of trance. Then he told me about the people on the card. By name. He was in touch with my father and . . . "

I couldn't believe my friend was so stupid to fall for this nonsense, but I was also intrigued. How did he figure out what names she'd written on the card? 

The very next night, I had a Match.com date with a guy who, it turned out, sang in the choir of the metaphysical church where Reverend Bob was the minister. Coincidence? Actually, yeah. I'm one of those people who believes there are coincidences. (Also, things don't happen for a reason. I guess I'm pretty cynical). My Match.com friend proceeded to tell me that Reverend Bob had connected several times with his brother who died in Vietnam. He told me this matter-of-factly, as if he was talking about the sun rising in the east.

My curiosity was seriously piqued now. How did this guy do it? I decided to find out.

I made an appointment for my own session with Reverend Bob. (side note: he doesn't charge for these meetings, although the secretary who scheduled my appointment told me the church welcomed donations).

Church The tiny white church was on a busy street in a busy Northern Virginia city. When I walked in, I was in a small foyer. Ahead of me was the sanctuary. To my right, the minister's office. The secretary greeted me and showed me the stack of note cards on a sideboard in the foyer and told me to write down two or three names of my dearly departed. Here were my suspicions: 1) There was a hidden camera in the foyer, or somehow the pen they gave me was rigged, or somehow the sideboard would pick up the impression of the names as I wrote them on the note card. I would foil them. Camera I carried the note card into the sanctuary and sat in a pew, away from the hidden camera, but just in case there was a hidden camera in the sanctuary, I covered each letter in the names as I wrote them (using my own pen. I felt truly paranoid and also very clever). Then I quickly folded the card into quarters. I'd written just two names:

  • ·        Susan Chamberlain (my grandmother who died when I was 20 and with whom I was very close. Like me, she had rheumatoid arthritis and she's my role model when it comes to living with this disease)
  • ·        Nan Chamberlain (my mother, who had died only a few weeks before this appointment)

Note card copy Reverend Bob called me into his office. I'd brought a blank audio tape with me as the secretary had requested and he inserted it in his tape player. For a second or two, he held his hand over my hand as I clutched the folded card. Then he shut his eyes and invited the spirits to come.

He opened his eyes and began talking to me about books I should read on spiritual stuff. For about fifteen minutes, he talked about this and that. I figured he had a little earpiece through which someone was telling him I'd hidden my card too well and the session was a lost cause.

SuddenlyGrammy copy, Reverend Bob closed his eyes again and told me Susan was in the room. Whoa. I was so chilled I had to ask him to repeat the name.

"Susan," he said. "She's sweeping snow or sand from a sidewalk. She's sweeping a path clear for you."

Holy shit. How did he do that?

Immediately I connected to what he was saying. If anyone was clearing a path for me on my RA journey, it was (and still is) Gram.

He began chatting about books or something again. I don't remember, because my mind was spinning. When he shut his eyes once more, he said,     "Someone else is here. Nan? Nan? Could it be Nan?"

When I listen to the tape now, I can hear the tears in my voice as I whisper "My mother."

"Do you do any writing?" Reverend Bob asked me abruptly.


"I see spirit standing next to you, tapping a pen against her hand."

I laughed. Mom couldn't know someone for 30 seconds without telling him or her "my daughter's a novelist."

We went on like that for a while. By the time I left, I was so shaken that I forgot to leave my donation and had to drive back to the church to do so.

How did he do it?

"Your website?" my sister suggested. "Obituaries? But then why wouldn't he have picked Mom and Dad, who died much more recently than Gram?"

I don't know.

Since that time, my significant other, John (number 70 in the Match.com dating game, but that's definitely for another post), also visited Reverend Bob. John wrote his names on a slip of paper at home. Reverend Bob chatted with John's mother (her name: Koula) and a beloved neighbor and even the neighbor's husband who popped into the session unbidden. My friend Ray, who is Middle Eastern but you'd never know it, wrote his names at home in Arabic, Arabic
and when Reverend Bob was in his "trance," he said to the spirits "In English please!" Then Mohammed and Abdul joined Ray and Reverend Bob in the room.

How does he do it??

Although I'm open to having this entire experience debunked, I have to admit it changed me. One thing Reverend Bob said that has stuck with me is this: people who die don't automatically know how to get in touch with us, so we need to listen. If we find ourselves suddenly thinking of them, we need to acknowledge that we hear them to let them know they're getting through. This is why, until someone can tell me how he does it, I'll keep saying, "I hear you, Dad. I hear you, Mom." Just in case they're really here.

Just in case.


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Who would want to debunk that experience.

I am with Maire-Reine, "Who would want to debunk that experience."

My father died a little over 6 months ago and I would give anything to be able to say goodbye. I can't imagine how life changing it would be to have someone that could truly listen to the deceased. As much as it goes against what I believe, I would love to have an experience like that!

How does he do it? Maybe he just does.

I'd love to go see Reverend Bob.

In the words of Liz Lemon: "I want to go to there." Road trip to see Rev. Bob.

I've had enough experience with the dead - father, mother, brother - to know (as my mother said hours before she, herself, died) that "they're always with us."

I love acknowledging them. Even if they're not there at the moment, isn't it nice to do what hundreds of other cultures have done for thousands of years - treat them as if they are.

There must be a reason.

What an eerie experience, Diane.

I'm convinced that my beloved grandmother, whose very peaceful death I witnessed, along with nearly a dozen other family members, has contacted me a couple of times. The first time when my mother was remarrying, her third marriage, to a man 11 years older than she, to great disapproval from the family. I woke up the morning of the wedding with a tailor-made toast for the reception. My grandmother always wanted everyone to be happy, and she of all people knew how lonely Mother had been.

The second time was the morning of my oldest daughter's wedding. She had a very rocky relationship to her dad, and so did I, after a really stressful and largely antagonistic divorce and subsequent life. Again (and this was exactly 11 months after Mother's wedding) I woke up knowing that the three of us had to heal our interaction, or Christy's marriage would never have total peace in it. And again, the wording of what I needed to say was right there when I woke up. My grandmother never liked people to hold grudges, bless her heart.

Unlike you, I do believe things happen for a reason, even bad things. We are meant to learn a lesson in this life, I think, and everything happens to us to teach us that lesson. If we pay attention.

I come prepared to de-bunk all this. I mean, "Reverend Bob?" Isn't he just asking to be called a fraud by calling himself Reverend Bob?

But---wow, it's hard to quibble with that experience. I just ran across this line: If the world were a logical place, men would ride sidesaddle.

Can't wait to hear about the first 69 Match dates!

Okay, Diane -

Charlie and I were just talking about this. Did Bob tell you anything about your mother/grandmother that you didn't know? 'Cause we're wondering if, perhaps, he reads minds - which in itself is cool.

Can't argue with that. I mean, you can, but why would you?

SO many things like that happen,and I agree, Diane, some things are coincidence. Then, there are other things that are *really interesting* coincidences. And then...well--there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies...

How can we possibly think we know how everything works? And since we can't, well then..

However. I would like to know how he does it, And why, like Nancy M says, he calls himself Reverend Bob. But--does he? Or does everyone else?

Fine, here you go.

It is called a cold reading. By talking with you, he picked up about your grandmother. Did he actually say anything specific, or more general and then zero in while you filled in the gaps for him. Most people are going to choose a recently deceased relative over say, your great grandmother who died in 1919. Google doesn't hurt. For that matter, having a match.com profile probably has more than enough information to be a big help. After all, match.com's computer matched you to another believer. Go to the library and google yourself. Google uses your past searches to aid your current search. See what comes up. Your Amazon listings? Your publisher? This site?

Next, Google "Shawn Hornbeck Psychic" Shawn Hornbeck was abducted in the St. Louis area in 2002. Sylvia Browne appeared on the Montel Williams show with Hornbeck's parents. Her psychic reading told the world that he had been abducted by a black man with dreadlocks and that he had been killed.

He was found in 2007, very much alive after being abducted and held by a white guy with short hair.

Then read all about the James Randi $1,000,000 challenge. To date, no psychic has even tried the challenge. http://www.randi.org/site/

After all of this, I will, at the end of the month, re-read the story of the real Exorcist. The events that became the basis of the book and movie. I may even take a drive to that part of town.

I don't disbelieve, I just don't care to be followed around by dead people. I hope they are in a better and much more amusing place. I remember having conversations on the playground in the second or third grade after a nun told us our dead relatives could see us. That led to conversations about whether they could see us everywhere, like in the bathtub, etc. I'm sure the nuns wanted us to think of our dead loved ones as heavenly hall monitors, but that wasn't the take home lesson for me. Rest in peace, loved ones.

Of course it could be a Google-aided scam, I suppose, but I'm not sure there's a lot of downside to living with the belief that the people we've loved still care for us and offer protection. Especially since you didn't have to cross his palm with silver.

You know, Diane, maybe YOU are the reason Alex has those psychic experiences at Weymouth. Just saying.

Ellen, our nuns did the same thing when I was a kid, provoking exactly the same discussions. Too funny.

If you've read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, you can see this taken to a new level. Food for thought, eh?

I'm on the next flight to that busy northern Virginia City. I have a veritable laundry list. I love this post, Diane!

What real Exorcist, Alan?

Hey...the whole thing was taped, right Diane? You could replay it and find out if you inadvertently sacrificed any info.

I hear my grandparent's voices all the time - especially my Pupup's voice when I am writing and need to think of a better word. He spoke 7 languages. He only gives me words in English though.

Maybe I should ask him to teach me to speak Italian.


Here is the story as written in 2005. Scary as hell!

Alan, I was/am a skeptic, too. But John Edward (the psychic guy not the politician) has me more or less convinced that some people can hear them. A very dear friend died of cancer in June of 2003. In October, John Edward was on Larry King Live. Linda was a HUGE fan of John Edward, so just to see what might happen, I dialed in. I was the last caller on the show. Below is the transcript of my section:

KING: St. Charles, Missouri, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, John.

EDWARD: Hi, how are you doing?

CALLER: Pretty good. I wanted to see if there's any messages, but also tell you, John, that a very good friend of mine just recently passed and she was very big fan of yours. And I just want to thank you for your work because she was really into that. We would talk about you all the time.

EDWARD: Oh, thank you.

CALLER: I have a feeling she got me on the phone here. But let's see who else comes through.

EDWARD: Thank you for saying that. Sometimes it's very hard to do this work and kind of -- I joke around and say I walk around with a bull's eye on my butt and to do this work, you know, people want to shoot you down, but it takes one person like you saying that, it makes it all worth it. So thank you.

The first thing is I have, again an older male figure whose coming through. I don't know if your dad passed.


EDWARD: But, I'm getting a male figure passes. And this person passes that -- I don't know if it was a skin cancer issue or somebody had something skin related. A disease or issue of the skin. Is your friend's dad passed, as well?


EDWARD: I have to tell you, there's an issue with the blood that comes up where there's a severe toxicology bad blood, poisons in the system. So, I don't know if she was on heavy medication or chemotherapy before she passed.

CALLER: Yes, yes.

EDWARD: OK. She's the person I think coming through. She wants me to tell you she's with her dad. Okay? And I don't know if you missed out on seeing her right before she passed.


EDWARD: But you were with her a lot. You talked to her often?


EDWARD: Do you have the rug hook, or the rug thing or a needle point or something embroidered?

CALLER: Cross stitch.

EDWARD: Is that the same thing?


EDWARD: Is that hers that you had or you made it for her?

CALLER: She gave me something that was cross stitched by someone else.

EDWARD: Okay. She's bringing that up to let you know that this is her. She's also talking about, you know when you watch the "Golden Girls" the group meeting in the kitchen over the cheesecake.


EDWARD: She's telling me that you would do that with her. Like, you would either force her to eat something that she didn't want to eat or tried to get her to eat something foodwise, you had the mutual food thing. Do you know what I'm talking about?

CALLER: Oh, yes.

EDWARD: She also making me feel like I need to talk you about -- either the name of the dog is Max or I need to talk to you about a gray dog like a Schnauzer. What's Max?

CALLER: Max was her dog.

EDWARD: Is that her dog?


EDWARD: Just know that she's okay. Thank you so much for calling.

KING: Of all the times you have been on, this was incredible.

EDWARD: Thank you.

KING: That Max. By the way, to top it off. After you do something like this do you have to melt down?

EDWARD: I do. I have to sometimes go out dancing or go to a movie.

KING: You're a good man.

EDWARD: Thank you very much.

KING: John Edward. "Crossing Over with John Edward" is seen a you will over the country. And of course the new book, "After Life: Answers From the Other Side" foreword by me.

And me will be back to tell you about tomorrow after this. Max.


(here is the link for the entire episode transcript http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0310/02/lkl.00.html )

Everything was fairly generic until he got to the part about the dog, Max. She had a dog, a Schnauzer mix named Max, who died about 3 months before she did. I, of course, have a video tape of the show and you can hear me gasp when he asks "What's Max?"

And this was over the phone. I think there are plenty of phonies. But John Edward has my attention, lol.

It's very common to call a minister Reverend Joe, or Pastor Fred, or Reverend Marie... or to call a priest Father John, for example.

Sorry to write a post and then disappear! Just got home after being flooded in on Topsail Island for 4 days. Not a bad place to be stranded, except for the no food and no dog food, but all is well now.

To answer a couple of questions: Rev Bob is not his name. I made that up because I felt odd identifying him in a blog, though he's pretty identifiable with the info I've given if anyone wants to search. He goes by his last name, not his first.

Alan, yes, he certainly could have figured out I'm a writer from the Internet. What doesn't make sense is that he also figured out my mom's nickname "Nan" when any obit or other Internet reference to her is in her legal name Anna. And why my grandmother who died in 1970 rather than my father who died in 2000? My younger brother doesn't buy any of it, but can't explain it. He emailed Randi, who said it had something to do with the notecard, but I don't see what.
To answer your question about specific information, no, I don't think so. I'd have to listen to the tape again. However, I think the names were pretty specific!

Oh, and as for inadvertently revealing info myself, absolutely not. I didn't open my mouth except to say an occasional "hmm" because I didn't trust him and didn't want to lead him in any direction. I didn't tell him who Susan was when he named her. I did, however, reveal that Nan was my mother after he said she was "with us."

Pam, I just don't know. I guess I am still such a cynic, but I can see how that interview would get to you!

I've had contact from dead relatives since I was 8 yrs old. I say 'from' because I can't make contact when I want to, it's all when they want to visit me.
Since I started renting this house I've been joined by the couple that built it and a former renter that died here.
It's something I just take for granted.

Rita....what's that like?

And, Pam, I think I read this before but...wow. Absolutely amazing!

An amazing blog, Diane. I believe my grandmother contacted me just before her death. It was 3 in the morning and there was an ice storm and the roads were closed and I couldn't be with her. She told me to find the photo of my grandfather as a boy that she kept in the cedar chest and take care of her plants.

Diane, for myself, I believe being a cynic is healthy, but not to judge is also healthy. You know, to just have that experience to look at, and be comforted by, and just to wonder about... because if all that comes of it is a healing memory... well, you have that, then.

Oh Elaine, I love that.

I was in a small group of individuals who were doing various meditative exercises to see if we could develop stronger intuition. We were sitting in a classroom, and had never met outside of the classroom or been in each others' homes or chatted on a personal level. The woman facilitating the group gave me an envelope, in which there was a piece of paper, and asked me to please describe whatever that paper inspired.
I figured I was the least 'intuitive' of the group and thought I'd probably just think about paper and envelopes, but I decided to just trust whatever came to mind and jot it down. I saw images of a man of about 30, wearing beige corduroy slacks and jogging shoes and a casual shirt, with a warm jacket, leaning against a low brick wall in front of a row house or some such old urban connected or semi-connected housing. But, there was a blotch or dark shadow or something obscuring one of his legs, and he seemed to be standing upright with effort, even having the wall to lean on. I wrote that he was about 2,000 miles away.
When I reported this to the facilitator, she asked me to open the envelope and unfold the paper. There was a man's name written on the paper. The facilitator said that this was the name of her cousin, who was fighting bone cancer in his lower leg (I think I had written the left leg, but the cancer was in the right, or vice-versa). She then produced a photo of his home, an old, red-brick house close to the street with a low brick wall in front, which is in St. Louis, MO (a bit over 1800 miles from L.A.), and said that he was very fond of the jacket I described and of his corduroy slacks, and wore them almost as a uniform.

There was no contest, no money to be had or paid, no profit motive nor reason to manipulate results. That was just what happened. Alan, I think a lot of scoundrels fleece a lot of people, and sometimes the fleeced deserve the fleecer. But, I have to say, I also think from my own experience that there is reason to believe that some individuals 'see' further than others, using a different level of sight. If they wish to provide information or comfort to others by using this ability, more power to them, so long as they don't exploit gullible folk.
I've never exploited this nor do I intend to do so. But, I've also never forgotten it.

Quite an experience, Laraine. Reverend Bob would encourage you to develop that gift.

Diane, wonderful blog. I love it when people share their experiences like this. Lauraine, you have the gift of a medical intuitive, possibly.

I've had too many strangely wonderful experiences myself to discount those of other people. Experience is the best convincer.

G'night, all. I stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. last night (morning) having a LOT of fun learning a bit of sign language via the internet. Now I'm ready for bed at 9:13, lol. What's the signage for "Needs to Keep More Regular Hours."

Oh! Here's what I was going to say: I just tonight started reading a new book called "Holy Ghosts," by the former editor-in-chief of Quality Paperback Book Club. It's about how his own haunted house convinced him.

Laraine, I would say that intuition makes you a much better healer, and more empathetic than many other people. What an amazing revelation about yourself.

Diane, I am as cynical as they come, but when over the phone he mentioned a dog named max, and the eating at the table like the golden girls, he had me. I had tried to call Larry King a couple of times and never could get through. I dialed for 45 minutes and kept getting a busy signal. Out loud, I said, "Linda, you like this guy. Get me on the show." The next time I hit redial, it started ringing. The producer came on and told me I would be the last caller.

Dear Hubby said when he was about 8, visiting his grandparents, he woke up in the middle of the night...about 2 am. At the foot of his bed stood his grandmother. She smiled at him. When he blinked, she was gone and he fell back asleep. When he woke up, they told him his grandmother died during the night. Whether he was really asleep and maybe dreamed this or was actually awake, he knows she came to him before she left. He was her first grandchild and her favorite. They say we only use a small portion of our brain power. Maybe some people have a higher function than others.

Sarah, I have sent this to a few ladies of the blog before, they probably have sent it on to you.

I will say that after Linda's death, I was very unsettled and had a hard time getting through it. She died in June and this was October. After talking to J.E., I was comforted and could talk about her without crying. Whether true or not, real or not, it did comfort me and I knew she was ok. What more can we ask for?

I think that feeling of comfort may be the bottom line. who cares if the connection is real or not? the sense of comfort definitely is.

Great post.
I swear to you my grandmother "knew" things. I was with her when she almost fainted and had to sit down. After thinking for a minute, she told me there was something wrong with my uncle, something bad. Later that day we found he'd had a heart attack just about the time she felt faint. It's a thread that runs in my family. I didn't get it, but I've seen it several times. There are many, many charlatans out there, but just once in a while, you stumble across the real thing. So, yes, I believe it could happen.

One way to think about taxation is that the government have an option on any income. So, the government's position is always the most stable of any institution in the economy, as long as it can maintain it's monopoly of coercion. But, this doesn't mean what some think it does.

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