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When the Skeptic Met the Spirit Medium
True story of my first reading with a medium (spirit messenger) during my investigation of life after death.
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The story I’m about to share with you is about my first reading with a medium, someone who communicates with spirits. I was a skeptic at the time, as illustrated in this article, although open minded enough to get a reading.
There are three important aspects of this experience that I would like to point out before you read it. One, the reading I got in this encounter lasted three hours. This is important to know because I don’t want you to expect your half-hour or one-hour reading to compare. Doing the math, one would need to get six half-hour readings to equal one three-hour reading.
The second matter I wish to point out is that this exceptionally long reading appears fated. I’m not sure I would have spent the next 26 years of my life focused on the afterlife if this reading only presented a third or a sixth of the evidence. I needed an overabundance of evidence to push me beyond my skepticism toward the lifelong journey I’ve known.
The third matter is that I didn’t know a good reading from a crappy one during this experience. Consequently, I hadn’t yet learned how to vet psychics and mediums. While the reading in this story is extraordinary, the medium was a beginner at the time of my reading. In other words, any experienced medium would likely be more capable than the novice of this story. So why was this reading extraordinary if the medium was a novice? I return to my belief that this experience was destined to push me forward in my investigation of life after death. Even the medium admitted this was the best reading she’d ever given.
Having preempted this story with those important points, let’s get started.
The Skeptic Learns About the Medium
On the 15th of January 1999, my newly published book was released. I'll admit it was exciting. However, a couple days after its release I had a talk with my father. That was a great deal more exciting because my father had been dead for almost two years.
My wife Melissa and I were at her parents' summer home in Wells, Maine for a long weekend. The New England weather had been biting cold with a foot of fresh snow. Town highway departments couldn’t contend with the snowfall, so roads were spotted with ice where the snow had become petrified on the asphalt.
Because my friend Dan and I were both nursing bruises on our backsides due to the icy driveway, we thought it wise to spread some sand before someone got seriously hurt. Being so close to the ocean, the beach seemed the obvious place to obtain a bucket of sand. We later learned there are laws against such an act. In hindsight that makes sense, but at the time we were just two dumb cavemen finding a solution to our problem.
Dan told me he’d recently visited a nearby medium. Being the late 90s, I had no idea what that meant (believe it or not, most people didn’t at the time). He told me a medium is someone who communicates with spirits.
“I’m sorry, what?” is all I could say.
As Dan continued, I tried to keep an open mind. During our drive to the ocean, he enthusiastically narrated the details this woman revealed about his life in a reading.
"Information she could never have known," he exclaimed. "Things you and Melissa don't even know," he added for emphasis. The story lasted until the driveway was covered with sand. In the end, I was both intrigued and frostbitten.
Over the weekend, Dan's story stayed on my mind. If I’m being honest, I was deeply skeptical, yet I’d made a commitment to investigate the afterlife after my father died two years earlier. You see, I’d grown up Catholic but my religious foundation wasn’t enough to sustain my grief. I was also curious about the prospect of life after death. Since I was a private investigator when my father passed, I decided to use my skills as a private eye to get some answers, that is, to search for evidence of an afterlife. At the time Dan related his story to me, I had found no convincing evidence thus far.
Given my commitment to investigate the afterlife, getting a reading with a medium seemed like something I should test out for myself. I’d gone to spiritual practitioners in the past, yet I was never impressed. More accurately, I thought every one of them to be a fraud. Still, I continued to try new spiritual experiences with a speck of hope that I might find a practitioner with a genuine gift.
Because my curiosity pestered me, I phoned Dan's medium on the last day of our stay. For privacy reasons, I’ll just call her Sally. It was Sunday so I really didn't expect she would see me, but it was worth making the call because not knowing if she was legitimate was toying with my sanity. I was taken by surprise when she said I could come to her home at four o'clock that afternoon. I booked the appointment and hung up the phone.
I immediately regretted making the appointment. Melissa and I weren't rolling in cash at the time, so I had a sense that I was wasting the money it was going to cost for the one-hour reading. Because I’d had a few awful readings from psychics in the past, I suspected that this woman might be another fraud adept at firing off generalizations that could pertain to nearly everyone who walked through her door. It wasn't that I thought Dan was purposely misleading me, but I felt he could be a bit naïve when it came to matters of this nature.
I considered calling Sally back to cancel the appointment, but Melissa was confused by my sudden change of mind.
"I understand your skepticism, Bob, but what if she’s truly gifted? Dan said she was. You'll always wonder unless you go. I know it’s a lot of money to us, but what kind of investigator would you be if you ignored potential evidence?"
I hesitated in thought.
"Look," she added, "You already made the appointment. It would be rude to cancel now."
She was right of course about all of it. I made the decision to go.
The Skeptic Meets the Medium
By afternoon, the weather had a change of mood. There was an air of rebirth thanks to the warm sun and melting ice. As Melissa and I made the half-hour trip to Sally's home, I swerved to dodge the ice chunks that threatened our aging car.
Along the way, I vowed to not divulge a single hint about my personality, work, marriage, family, or past during the conversation with the medium. "If this woman is truly gifted, she’s going to have to prove it," I told Melissa. We also decided that Melissa would stay in the car so that Sally couldn't visually learn anything about her or deduct any revealing signals about our relationship. I was putting this so-called medium to the test, and she was going to have to earn her money without gaining any clues from me.
As we drove up the gravel driveway, Melissa and I were instantly filled with envy at the view of Sally's postcard farmhouse with an operational barn, horses roaming the fields, and children sledding in the snow a short distance away. I avoided the chickens and parked our car so nobody in the house could see Melissa. As I approached the entrance, I knocked on the door and was immediately greeted by a woman I assumed to be Sally.
I couldn't really see her at first, as the setting sun was bright and the front porch entry was shadowed. She invited me in and I followed her to an in-law apartment attached to the farmhouse. She said it was where her mother lived, but that her mother was away on vacation. It was spacious and clean with that new addition feel to it, and it was furnished with comfortable cozy chairs and a couch. I quickly sat on the first chair I approached, finally getting a look at Sally.
I was expecting a fifty-or-sixty-something year old woman wearing a gypsy outfit and sporting a rather large wart on her face. Instead, she was a thin, small-framed thirty-something year old, no wart, and wore white jeans and a fleece top. Except for her flaming red hair that fell past her shoulders and framed her face—giving her a “witches of Salem” kind of look—Sally appeared quite normal.
Sally’s ordinary appearance added to my uncertainty. I might as well just give her my money and leave, I thought. This is going to be a complete waste of time. I figured Sally read a couple books on developing your psychic abilities and decided it was a good way to make extra cash while she stayed at home with the kids.
Since I snapped up the chair, Sally walked to my left and sat on the couch, rather comfortably I noticed, with her legs bent under her like she was about to watch a movie with the family. I half expected the microwave to ding signaling the popcorn was ready. Her casualness made me feel a tiny bit at ease, but I knew even she sensed my guard was still up.
She told me that she didn't want me to tell her anything about myself, and only to answer her questions with a "yes, no or maybe." Basically, she’d be asking me if I understood her messages. “Yes” meant I understood. “No” meant I didn’t understand. And “maybe” meant I understood but needed more information to be sure.
Sally added that she didn't want me to offer any details or fill in with information that she was missing, because she would eventually put it all together as the reading progressed.
I’d already vowed to Melissa and myself not to tell her anything, but I was now more relaxed knowing Sally wasn't going to pry. Consequently, my curiosity grew. All I could think was, what if she’s legit? Then I quickly caught hold of myself, remembering all the phony fortunetellers I’d visited in the past. I was determined not to let my guard down and get suckered in by her calm-mannered unassuming manipulation.
She told me that she communicates with people's spirits, "angels if you prefer to call them, but without the wings." These are spirits who are "in the light," and are around each of us to help aid us through life. She said we all have many spirit guides who help us with the different facets of our existence. Some are people we know from this lifetime who have passed on and have made the transition back to the spirit world. Others are souls who did not exist in this lifetime but have been with us in other lifetimes, or at least have been with us in the spirit world between lives.
Sally spoke like a poet. She had a calming tone to her voice where her words flowed from her lips like a violin playing Mozart. I thought to myself how she’d be perfect for one of those meditation recordings. Sally's words seemed to come from her heart as if she honestly believed them. I couldn't help but stop fighting her like a cat in a net and at least listen to what she was saying.
Sally said that “the spirit world is actually home to us.” I thought this was a comforting notion. “This earthly existence is a temporary place of learning and growing,” she added.
"Much like college?" I jumped in.
"Sure, a little bit like going away to school," she patiently replied. Sally explained that, when we die, our souls leave this earthly life of fleshly confinement to go home where we feel free and liberated in the surrounding comfort of God's light and love.
As nice as it sounded, a lot of this went right over my head like so much mumbo-jumbo. I was somewhat ignorant in this area, and while it was amusing and marginally interesting to me, I also didn't know what to make of it. I was still hesitant and was not going to be made the fool. Then she told me that two of my spirits were in the room.
"Huh?" I took a deep breath, knowing this was the moment it could all come crashing down to reveal that my concerns about wasting money were justified.
The Medium Communicates with Deceased Loved Ones
She identified the two spirits as my grandmother (whom she identified by name, Mary) and my father (whose personality she described with accuracy).
Lucky for Sally that both had died, I thought to myself. How embarrassing it would have been if they were still alive. But they weren't. Okay, she got lucky, especially with my father. It wasn’t much of a stretch that I’d have a grandmother who’d passed. I waited for more evidence.
Sally said that my grandmother was telling her I was a big skeptic, a "wanna-believer" who hoped there was an afterlife but needed a lot of proof.
Bingo on the latter.
My grandmother told Sally they needed to prove to me that my grandmother was truly there. She proceeded to name a few of my relatives by their first names: Steve, Pam, Mark, Holly, Bonnie, Jeff, and Rick. Not bad considering the names she gave were all my grandmother's grandchildren. She was either very good or some kind of magician.
She also congratulated me on my new business venture. Sally added that my grandmother was placing white flowers all around me. With this, and the "energy feeling" Sally received with the white-flower visual, it was a symbol to Sally of congratulations relating to something of a business nature, as opposed to a birth or a marriage, which would likely be different colored flowers or a different energy feeling.
I suspected the congratulations were related to the fact that my new book had been released a couple days prior, but there was no way I was going to give that information to her. Without any hints from me, she eventually did figure out that not only did I have a book published, but also that I had originally self-published this book before a traditional publisher picked it up.
How the heck did she know that? I wondered. She added that the book was about a grueling time in my life that involved unfathomable suffering. In fact, the book was about my experience during a five-year chronic depression.
Since Sally said she can also sense the emotion the spirits are feeling, tears rolled down her face as my grandmother expressed her love and sorrow for me during that five-year struggle. I must confess that I was taken aback by Sally's willingness to become so emotionally involved for my benefit.
Sally explained there are four ways that spirits communicate with her. The first is by allowing her to observe them visually. The second is through verbal communication. The only problem with this, she told me, is that not everything comes through with clarity. It's like listening to an AM radio station with static. The third means of communication is with symbolic messages where pictures or words are placed in Sally's mind. Finally, the fourth way she receives messages from the spirit world is through sensations in her body.
To illustrate the fourth way, if a spirit wants Sally to know that they died from pneumonia, she might feel pressure in her lungs and a sensation of suffocation. If the message is that the spirit was struck on the head, she might feel pain on that part of her skull. Similarly, if they want her to get the message of fear or love, they can cause her to feel either of those emotions that they wish to convey.
Sally communicated with my father next. Within minutes, she was rattling off details about my life that were hard to chalk up to a lucky guess. To prove to me that she was really communicating with him, my father gave Sally a list of significant people in my life.
Dad began by mentioning that our closest friends recently had a child. He didn’t give her our friends’ names, but he mentioned their daughter’s name, Daisy. I thought that was a pretty good name to provide considering how unique it is. It’s one thing that she got Mary as my grandmother’s name, but Mary is a common name for that generation. Daisy, on the other hand, is a risky name to throw out in a reading.
Then Sally began rattling off more names: Carol (my mother), Melissa (my wife), Kris (our friend), Kristen (our friend), Jamie (my friend and former boss), John (our friend), Emily (my aunt), Steve (my cousin), Pam (my cousin, Steve’s sister), Mary (my grandmother), Joseph (my grandfather), Scott (my brother-in-law), and Brian.
Sally described Brian as a younger cousin who came to live with my family after his parents died in a plane accident. That was a lot of detail to unpack. It took her about ten minutes to put it all together, but she pulled it off. It was also true. Brian’s parents perished in a plane crash when he was ten years old, and he moved in with us after the accident. I was thirteen at the time.
Ironically, Brian’s parents had always flown separately when traveling for fear that such a tragedy might occur. They’d lost a nine-year-old daughter who’d been struck by an 18-wheeler while riding her bike near their home several years prior, so they were aware that tragic accidents were a reality. However, when Brian’s paternal grandmother passed unexpectedly, his parents had to fly together to make her funeral service on time. That one exception to their general rule resulted in one funeral for three people—Brian’s parents and his grandmother.
Brian’s mother is the Emily who was mentioned in my father’s list of names. Sally said Emily presided quietly during the reading holding a white handkerchief. Sally was unable to interpret what the handkerchief meant, but I assumed it signified her sorrow for the tragedy of Brian’s losses.
My father and grandmother encouraged me to contact Brian because we’d lost touch over the years. My father—through Sally—then told me where Brian worked, how many children he had, as well as additional, more personal details about his life. I already knew this information, but it allowed me to appreciate that the information Sally delivered was correct.
My father continued to tell Sally that my mother was considering doing volunteer work (true), and that Melissa and I were considering getting a dog. She even knew that we specifically wanted a Lab, adding that I wanted a chocolate Lab but Melissa wanted a yellow one. It was all correct. We had even purchased a Labrador calendar for our home office just two days before the reading.
If you think this is a lot of information to come from a one-hour reading, you’re right. The one-hour reading I’d scheduled lasted over three hours. It was obvious that the reading was going so well that even Sally didn’t want it to stop.
As for me, once the reading got rolling and the evidence suggested she was truly communicating with my deceased grandmother and father, I couldn't just say, "Sorry Dad. Sorry Gram. I know you’re dead and this reunion is really nice, but I really can't afford to talk anymore." Once the evidence indicated that Sally had a legitimate gift of spirit communication, money was the last concern on my mind. I had no choice but to allow the reading to keep going and deal with the finances later.
So the reading continued, for three gut-wrenching hours. Sally wasn't the only one with tears in her eyes that evening. I was wiping my sleeve across my face more than once. I cried when my father apologized through Sally for what his alcoholism did to our family. I cried when he told me that one of his proudest moments was watching me play a solo on my saxophone during the middle school band concert. I cried when he asked me to thank my mother for the lilacs she left on his grave (lilacs were his favorite flower). And I cried when my father accurately described to Sally the scene at the hospital as he died from lung cancer.
This part of the reading transported me back to that vivid memory. My mother, my sister, Melissa, and I surrounded my father's hospital bed, holding him tightly as the doctor removed the breathing tube. For ten minutes, but what felt like an eternity, we watched as he took his last few breaths.
Hearing Sally communicate my father's words was a gift beyond monetary value. My mouth was silent, but it was impossible to hide my emotion when this stranger relayed to me my own thoughts, the exact words of my prayers that my father had heard and was now repeating back to me. He even suggested an occasional frustration with me for not acknowledging his presence when I surely knew he was with me. To not weep, to not become wholeheartedly enveloped by my memories of him, I would have had to be dead myself. The experience was so much more than poignant. It was now a moment engraved in time.
The Spirit Communication is Interrupted
After two hours had passed, and in a moment of realization, I remembered Melissa was waiting in the car. Being that it was January in New England, the sun goes down by 4:30 p.m. and the frigid cold returns even on the sunniest of days. It was about 6:00 p.m. when I suddenly looked at my watch. Sally must have been confused when, panic stricken, my eyes widened and I jumped from my seat.
"Oh my God, my wife’s waiting in the car. Can I get her? Will this disrupt the reading? My father and grandmother won't go away, will they?"
Sally assured me that there would be no disruption, and she was immediately concerned about Melissa. To my surprise, I ran out to the car, but it was empty. Confused, I went back into the house. When I saw one of Sally's children, I asked if he had seen Melissa. Apparently, Sally's husband had kindly invited Melissa out of the cold car to join him and their four children in the warm house. He and Melissa were having a nice visit while the children ate supper when I interrupted to have her join the reading.
On our way to the in-law apartment, I quickly gave Melissa the Reader's Digest version of what had occurred so far in the reading. I told her who was present in the room and mentioned a few snippets of information that related specifically to her; for one, that my father had instructed me to thank her for the candles she lights every morning upon waking me up.
Melissa Joins the Reading
After introducing Melissa and Sally, my father brought up the candles again now that Melissa was there. He said that he loved the "ambiance" of the candles. Then he joked, "Imagine me using a word like 'ambiance?'" It was true. My father had the look of a ruggedly handsome movie star but the vernacular of a truck driver (his vocation). For him to use a word like ambiance would have sounded funny. We all laughed at my father's modesty. It was typical of his character to make fun of himself.
My father also wanted to inform Melissa that he particularly likes the vanilla candles she frequently burns. With that said, and within only moments of her arrival, Melissa had tears trickling down her cheeks and into the corners of her mouth. Either her protective wall of skepticism wasn't as rigid as my own, thereby not requiring an hour of unmitigated evidence to tear it down, or she trusted my assertion that Sally's gift was real when I hurriedly explained the situation to her while leading her to the in-law apartment.
Melissa was quick to understand that she was witnessing an event that would forever change both my life and her own. She was understandably sentimental about our reunion with my father whom she had known since she was just twelve years old, when we first began dating.
After the third hour, which included additional messages from both Melissa's deceased loved ones and my own, Sally's energy was observably spent. Still, it was equally obvious that the reading was as gratifying for her as it was life-changing for us. No one wanted the night to end, and we continued to talk for another hour, mostly with Sally enlightening us as I fired off a multitude of questions that had exploded in my thoughts during the reading.
Pondering the Experience While Driving Home
Eventually, it was time to leave Maine and go home to Massachusetts. The two-hour ride was unusually quiet as Melissa and I pondered the events of the last few hours. Melissa broke the silence by admitting she was "feeling a little creeped-out," not sure she would ever feel comfortable again while getting undressed. "Who knows who might be watching?" she joked with a touch of concern in her voice.
I assured her that any spirits around us would surely be polite enough not to look and that issues of the flesh were not likely to have any effect on spiritual beings anyway. I think my words comforted her, but now she had me thinking about it.
As I continued to contemplate the reading, it was evident that this insightful milestone was triggering more questions than it had answered. All the way home, and all during that sleepless night, my mind kept returning to one assertive thought: "The detailed and accurate messages in my reading were compelling evidence of life after death."
My father died in 1997, but the story I just shared happened in 1999. Although I’d been investigating the afterlife for two years, this reading was the first convincing evidence of an afterlife that I’d gained. Without knowing it, this was the first of many experiences transitioning me from private investigator to afterlife investigator. I’ve now been doing this for twenty-six years.
Overcoming My Skepticism
Looking in hindsight, I now recognize that it required a mother of four to teach me how narrow-minded I was in my skepticism, which then allowed me to discover more evidence of the afterlife. Over the next several years, I had experiences with past-life regression, after-death communication, spirit artistry (mediums who draw portraits of the spirits they see), animal communication, and spirit contact through hypnosis, to name just a few.
I also interviewed countless people who have known near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, deathbed visions, something called shared-death experiences, and the very common phenomenon known as dream visitations (when spirits visit people in their dreams). I will write about all these subjects in upcoming articles here on my Substack account at BobOlsonConnect.com.
I have now tested hundreds of psychics and mediums and inadvertently have become an expert on their abilities. I even teach psychics and mediums how to give better readings based on my twenty-six years of testing and analysis. I eventually realized that there were a lot of psychic and medium directories and hotlines that lack integrity, professionalism, and ethical standards, which motivated me to create my own directory of recommended psychics and mediums: BestPsychicDirectory.com
Despite my experiences, I do not think anyone needs to have a reading with a medium. Yet if my story intrigues you in the least, I recommend the experience, especially if you're dealing with the loss of a loved one. I have learned how comforting knowledge about the afterlife can be for the grieving, mostly because of the feedback I’ve received from my audience, but also how it comforted me in my own bereavement following my father’s death.
More importantly, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in the last two and a half decades, it’s that people do not become believers from hearing another person's story. Rather, we grow to become knowers from our own personal experiences. What that means to you is that rather than take my word for any of this, I encourage you to experience a reading with a medium yourself. Even better, I urge you to become your own afterlife investigator so that you can decide for yourself what is real.
With heartfelt gratitude for reading my story, I wish you well.
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Bob Olson is the host of Afterlife TV, author of two books, Answers About The Afterlife and The Magic Mala, and creator of the directory of psychics and mediums, BestPsychicDirectory.com. His newest venture is Bob Olson Connect, where you can read Bob’s articles before they become books.
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If you’re enjoying my articles, please click the ❤️ button so more people can discover it on Substack. (It really helps, thanks!)