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Calling all souls |

Sunday Lifestyle

Calling all souls

- Scott R. Garceau - The Philippine Star

You think you know how to multi-task?

Theresa Caputo has got you way beat.

Caputo — the big-haired, big-nailed spirit consultant from Hicksville, New York, who stars in the Discovery Channel show Long Island Medium — says she’s been hearing voices from beyond since she was four years old, and it was only as an adult that she learned that these were dead people trying to pass along messages of reassurance from the afterlife to their loved ones.

She hears these voices all the time; she’s got it even worse than Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense.

So stop whining about people trying to reach you constantly through your smart phone, social media and email. Because Caputo gets interrupted by dead people 24/7.

Those who watch the show — now airing its fifth season on Eve channel locally — may start out being skeptical about Mrs. Caputo’s abilities. Some of the uncanny moments on the show might convince them otherwise. But whether or not you believe in spiritual mediums, there’s one thing that can’t be debunked: the show is a hit, as much for its quirky, family-driven reality TV format as for its message (the show features Caputo and her husband Larry at home, living with their two kids, dealing with the usual family stuff — “empty nest syndrome,” her daughter getting a tattoo, etc. — in between dead-serious client readings).

As such, Long Island Medium strikes a precarious balance between light TV moments (Caputo is remarkably self-effacing about her “gift,” an energy she refers to in the third person as “Spirit”) and often-weepy consultations with folks who reveal incredibly tragic stories of family loss. Caputo would say that her job is to offer these troubled people “peace, comfort and, in a sense, permission to live” by channeling messages from their departed loved ones.

“My rule with Spirit is that they have to channel with levity and love,” Caputo says. “Levity, because these are heavy messages. I need Spirit to remind us of the happy times. So they talk about things that happened years ago that they forgot about.”

Things happen on the show that can’t always be easily explained by medium tricks such as “cold reading” (the practice of picking up on a client’s physical details to fashion “insightful” comments) or the Forer effect (making broad or vague observations about clients to gain their trust and fish for more information).

Like when Caputo visits a women’s prison and reduces several hard-looking inmates to tears by mentioning specific details about their dead parents; or a similar encounter on The Ellen DeGeneres Show where Caputo meets a backstage crowd and immediately focuses on a woman who’s lost her child, asking her if she’s been “looking at teeth” recently. (It turns out the woman was looking at her departed son’s collected baby teeth prior to the show’s taping.)

What’s up with that? The skeptics would say Caputo is merely fashioning questions around well-worn grief behavior: looking at a dead child’s belongings is not so unusual. But guessing that this parent had been looking at teeth? That’s a bit eerie.

Someone asks if she ever hears things from Spirit that could help police solve murders. “I always say this is not about bringing people to justice,” she says. “A lot of times people will say, ‘Leave it alone.’”

Recently, though, she did a reading in which Spirit told her how a murder victim had been dragged to a mountain, then bitten by something. “It turned out later that the husband killed her and left her in the mountains, and a mountain lion came and ate her physical body.” 

This stuff happens all the time to Caputo. Growing up, she was scared to leave the house: voices came to her everywhere. “I struggled with it for a long time,” she recalls. “I really thought it was normal to see people standing at the end of the bed at night, or people hearing things when there was nobody in the room.”

She says it reached a critical mass after 9/11, when she heard these voices all the time. But being a Catholic, she felt listening to such voices was wrong. “Before I learned to channel the energy, it was hard for me because of my faith — my Catholic background said I’m not supposed to do this, right? So I struggled with that for a really long time.” So she put it in God’s hands: “With all my anxieties growing up, being in church was the one place I always felt safe.”

She admits there were times she and her husband Larry thought she was going cuckoo. She sought psychiatric treatment, according to Larry, and got a clean bill of mental health. So instead she sought a spiritual adviser who told her to let it go — to open the Spirit spigot. Now, she channels the voices through her head chakra and out through her foot chakra.

“The anxiety I felt was related to the fact that I’m a medium and I was suppressing Spirit’s energy,” she says in her latest book, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up. “Can you imagine? The least reassuring news you can give an anxious person is that dead people are drawn to them!”

When we meet the Caputos for brunch at a midtown Manhattan restaurant decorated with Mexican skulls called Dos Caminos (“Two Ways”), I ask Theresa if there are any “operating hours” for the dead. Do they speak to her 24/7, or can she turn it off?

“I just don’t,” she says. “It really is up to Spirit. It’s a rapid-fire-type thing. There is no process, I just sense and feel things when I meet people, I don’t know why.” Despite Discovery Channel gently warning us not to “ask” for a reading from Caputo, she turns her medium powers on me voluntarily: “Like, I sense a father figure here for you… I don’t know if it’s a father or grandfather. It’s very, very strong. Is that correct?”

I do, indeed, have a father, I admit. And I would be visiting him the next day. Not exactly an out-of-the-ballpark revelation, though. I ask her why she thinks she was given this gift.



“I ask myself that all the time. I think it’s because of the way I allow Spirit to use my physical body. I don’t place a lot of expectations on Spirit and I just say and feel whatever it is; that’s how I am. Even if you’re my friend, you’ll be able to read my emotions on my sleeve, and that’s the way it is with Spirit. I just say whatever it is I’m sensing or feeling, even if it makes no sense to me. And I’m not afraid of it.”   

One thing Spirit seems to have done for Caputo is to make her fearless. Imagine hearing voices from beyond the grave all your life: you might feel a little claustrophobic at times. Caputo says she now does “meditation before each reading, and I protect myself with God’s white light to prepare myself.”

Celebrity seems to have also imbued her with a white light of sorts. Her medium powers have led to quite a few side projects. There are books, product endorsements (one for paired with William Shatner); Saturday Night Live has even parodied the show, with guest Daniel Craig playing Larry (a fact that tickles Larry no end; later he bares a “007”
tattoo on his bicep). Then there are the travel shows for Discovery, which have brought Theresa and family around the country. I ask which are the most spirit-active places in America.

“New Orleans is very different. The more I go back, the more crazy things get. I did a live show there recently where my cameramen — we were walking through theaters, the lights were falling off the cameras, batteries falling out, I felt I was pushed in the theater. There’s a little bit different type of energy. But never anything bad, just very… interactive, I would say.”

I mention that the Philippines is a Catholic country, and that there are many spiritually interactive people, if she cares to go international.

 “I would love to go there,” she says. “Are you inviting me to the Philippines?” She goes on to ask how I ended up so far away from the US. “It’s either job opportunity or love. Am I right?”

I tell her she had a 50-50 chance on that guess. Then I ask her why it’s so important for people who’ve lost loved ones to see a medium.

“I think there’s no right or wrong way to grieve,” she says. “That’s one thing that Spirit tells me, that it’s okay if you’re crying every day after five years, there’s nothing wrong with that. 

“I think losing a child is the hardest loss anyone can face. What goes through a parent’s mind, to think they did everything they could to love and protect a child? I think that’s a message that they need to hear: How do you go on from that?”

On a lighter note, I ask if she’s ever freaked herself out on the show.

“Oh, every day. We just filmed something where I did a house cleansing and we walked up to the attic. And after I told the souls to go to the light, we heard a screen door open and close. This house did not have a screen door! We were up on the third floor. Everyone looked at me; they all heard it. We searched the house, everywhere: no screen door.”

And what, we wonder, is Theresa Caputo afraid of now?

“The dark.”

The dark? But why?

She smiles and shrugs. “Because the dark is scary.”

* * *

Long Island Medium Season 5 airs Wednesdays at 9:50 p.m. on Eve channel, currently until end of December.

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