These days, there is no shortage of chatter. It courses along social media channels, emanates from screens of all sizes and is heard (and read) via the multitude of smart devices. And that is just the discourse of the living.
For James Van Praagh there is another form of communication to which one should be listening. However, since most people cannot hear it, he says he serves as a bridge between the living and the dead for the past 30 years.
“I am a teacher first and foremost,” said Van Praagh who shares his knowledge of the afterlife though his bestselling books, appearances on radio and television and visits to venues around the world, such as his stop Wednesday, April 9, to the Ridgefield Playhouse. “It’s really about changing people’s views about life and death.”
For this clairvoyant and spiritual medium, receiving messages from those who have died not only gives solace to relatives and loved ones, but it also may ease others’ anxiety about what happens after death and give the living tips on how to live more joyfully.
As a child, growing up in New York, Van Praagh said he could see spirits, but it wasn’t until his early 20s that he began to fully explore an ability to sense and see spirits who were attempting to communicate with him.
Early on, he aspired to be a sitcom writer and, perhaps, have a role in one of his projects. It was on this dream that he took off decades ago in his old Audi Fox, leaving his New York neighborhood to find fame in Los Angeles.
Once there, he developed a couple of pilots and wrote for popular series. But it was a trip to a medium when he was 24, that set him on his true life’s path. Not that he knew it at first. “I didn’t know what mediumship was,” he said.
However, with encouragement, he developed his talent, and within two years of that meeting quit a good-paying job and set up shop in his small Hollywood apartment.
“I did it as a leap of faith,” he said. “I didn’t have any clients, and I didn’t know where the rent money was going to come from, but the spirits took care of me.”
By early 1994, the public was learning about his work during his guest spots on the NBC television show “The Other Side,” and other talk shows, such as “The Joan Rivers Show” (which was his first TV appearance),” “Larry King Live,” “Oprah” and his own, “Beyond with James Van Praagh.”
In 1997, his first book, “Talking to Heaven: A Medium’s Message of Life After Death,” became a best-seller. It was followed by other popular titles, including “Ghosts Among Us: Uncovering the Truth About the Other Side” and “Unfinished Business: What the Dead Can Teach Us About Life.”
He co-created and produced the CBS series “Ghost Whisperer,” starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, which ran from 2005 to 2010, which was based on his work.
During his talk at the Parker Playhouse, Van Praagh, 55, said he will talk about the afterlife, share his story, sign some books and do some readings based on who is in the audience. He gets his share of skeptics and critics, but leaves it up to those who come to listen to make up their own minds.
“I present my gifts and abilities for everybody to take them or not,” he said.
But there is a lesson he hopes resonates with all, and it is one that has come from his work with the dead.
“Once you take away the fear of death, you can get on with living,” he said. “It’s really about how to live life mindfully and be conscious of the choices you make in life. In so many of my readings, the spirits come through with unfinished business.”
TO GO: An Evening of Spirit with James Van Praagh on June 11. 8pm. $49.29 – $81.09. Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8th St; Fort Lauderdale. For info: 954-462-0222 or parkerplayhouse.com