The Skeptic's Guide to Mediums: What I Learned From My First Experience



As the daughter of two research scientists and a lifelong non-believer in any faith-based higher power, I wouldn’t exactly categorize myself as the target candidate for a spiritual medium. However, a 2015 nonfiction book called After This, which chronicles a traditionally trained grief counselor’s exploration of alternative spirituality as a coping mechanism after the death of a loved one, I started opening up my mind a little. There is no official, formal certification for mediums, but generally, these practitioners work as intermediaries between the spirit world and our physical world. They’re folks who were ostensibly born with a special ability to tune into spiritual frequencies in order to pass along messages from your ancestral spirit guides and departed friends and family. A medium is not a psychic or a witch; they are simply a transmitter of supernatural information. At least that’s the claim. In perfect honesty, this stuff always sounded to me like play-pretend at best and manipulative quackery at worst (picture TV mediums ripping off grief-stricken widows to boost their business); but after reading in After This about the closure that medium visits can bring mourners, I started to see the value in it, even if I didn’t necessarily buy into the mysticism itself.

Personally, I had never considered seeing a medium, not even out of sheer entertainment, until the summer of 2018 when one of my closest family members, my hilarious, energetic grandfather (also a scientist), suddenly passed away from an aggressive and fast-acting cancer. The death left me with so many unanswerable questions: Did he feel he was ready to go yet? Was he upset with how it happened? Is he okay out there? (Not that I even believe in an afterlife.)