Sunday, July 15, 2018

Debunked! - 1998

“Hey, Ms. Gardeen, Andrew Bassen here, I wanted to see if I could get a reading this afternoon if you can see me,” said a worried young male voice. 
I hesitated for a moment and I was not exactly sure why.  At the behest of my husband Jess, I had started doing personal readings so I could use my talents as a bridge between doing the TV appearances and connecting with individuals who needed my help one-on-one. I was starting to make a name for myself as a medium on a national level – getting booked on Montel regularly and the Today Show for New Year’s Eve.  I unlike a lot of other mediums, I charged only $90 per reading which was not a huge sum of money because I wanted to remain accessible to a wide variety of people. My calendar was now getting full and these instant requests were getting harder to fill.  There was also a disquieting sound in this man’s voice which gave me pause. 

“I’ll pay you double or triple your usual rate, please!” he begged. 
“That’s not necessary,” I replied.  “I can fit you in around 12:30 if that works for you – otherwise it will have to be in a few weeks.”
“No, 12:30 is fine, thank you!”

I put down the phone and felt a little uneasy.  When people are that insistent, they generally expect me to give them a revelation that will make all their problems go away and it’s never that simple.  The first thing I do when reading someone is to check my bullshit meter.  Am I projecting my own thoughts or issues into the reading? Am I trying to make a connection that’s not there?  I then open myself up to the entity that wants to come through.  Sometimes they are right there - behind or in front of the person and sometimes they are just in my mind’s eye – it depends on the spirit and how they want me to perceive them.

 I generally try to make statements based on the information I’m getting from the other side rather than ask leading questions.   I try to be specific – for instance - “Roger says you both used to hide out in the middle school athletic building to avoid Mr. Baker your PE teacher – does that sound right?” rather than “Did you have a friend with the first name of R who you used to play with?”  My clients are generally amazed at my accuracy.  I also don’t try to drag out the information into multi-sessions to get them to come back and give me more money.  I feel that’s unethical.  It’s their information – I’m just a conduit that provides it to them. 

But along with the sincere people who just want those last answers from those who have passed there are those that want to expose all mediums as fakes no matter what.  I get it – nothing calls out to heaven for vengeance like someone exploiting grief for personal gain.  I also know that some “psychics” use the power of elimination and rapid-fire questions to figure out what the person is looking for, then tell them what they want to hear and take their money.  I’m always very clear in my intentions and if the person I’m talking too did not get the answers they need – they don’t have to pay me.  At this point, I’ve done about 200 readings and no one has asked for their money back. 

It was 12:20 when Andrew arrived.  He was a young man in his 20’s, with a slight build, short blond hair and blue eyes which tried to be earnest but there was a cynicism that he could not hide.  I offered him a something to drink which he declined and I had him just talk to me casually as I got my tea ready.  I assured him the clock on his session would not start until we were both sitting at the table and he could ask me questions directly.   As he fidgeted with a thread on his shirt while I made tea and small talk – I noticed an older woman apparition standing behind him trying to calm him down.  It seemed like she was used to this.  She looked at me and smiled dolefully.  I think she knew what he was going to ask and was pretty sure he was not going to like the answer.   I’ve found that like therapists, folks generally know the answers, they just want confirmation.

We sat down at the round mahogany table in my office.  I asked Andrew to close his eyes if he was comfortable doing that and to breathe deeply.  I also took out a tape recorder and told him that I would record our session and give him the tape which he could keep.  He looked surprised at this and seemed to relax a little.  He kept his eyes open – carefully fixing them on me and took a short breath while I took a long one.  The older woman put his hand on his shoulder.
“Just so that you know – I’ll relay the information as I get it and from those that come through.”
“Okay, sounds good,” he replied uncertainly.
   “There is an older woman near you – about 70 years old, short and
heavy set – wearing a blue dress with a rose broach.  She’s showing me hand full of M&Ms – does that mean anything to you?”
Andrew looked surprised – I guess I had seen something which rattled him a bit.
“My grandma used to give me and my brother M&Ms, actually sneaked them to us when my mom was in the kitchen making dinner.”
The old woman turned to me and talked directly with a slight Hungarian accent.  
“I’m Ella – but my grandchildren called me Grand Ella.  His mother was a terrible cook and rarely let me into her kitchen.  You know how competitive the women can be – especially daughter and Mother-in-laws.  I would come by and leave a casserole from time-to-time but those poor boys never got a decent home cooked meal and she never allowed sweets into the house,” she said touching the top if his head.  Andrew batted at his hair like he felt a bug that he was trying to swat away.
“She’s telling me her name is Grand Ella and that your mom is not a great cook and that she used to bring a casseroles by – that your mother felt competition from her.”
Andrew looked more uncomfortable – which was normal.  It’s one thing for him to know about the conflicts at home it’s another for a stranger to get that information from beyond and relay it.   
“Yeah, they had issues. Is there anyone else there with her?” he asked carefully.
At this the old woman looked sad and disappointed. 
“He wants to hear from his father but my son is not dead.  My son left his family – his wife and two sons because he was afraid – afraid of responsibility – afraid to love someone unconditionally.  In my daughter-in-law’s eyes, he was literally dead to her and that’s what she told her sons.  She wanted them to look up to their father and respect why she married him which I appreciated but it was a fantasy – he was not what she said he was.  He left me as well – maybe I was not a good mother.  I tried to make it up to my grandchildren.  They were all I had.  Vera – his mother – would let me visit but generally she would leave so I could babysit but she had a hard time looking at me.  She felt I was the reason he left.  But she was wrong – I was happy when they married.  I wanted him to settle down, but he couldn’t, he just couldn’t,” she looked down and started to cry. 
“He left for another woman – we fought that night and he vowed to never see me again.  He didn’t come to see me on my death bed – he knew but he stayed away.  Vera was there - she was the one who loved me in the end,” she broke down in sobs.
I took a deep breath and tried to size up the information I was just given.  This was probably NOT what he had been expecting.
“I’m not sure how to tell you this or even if you want to know this,  your grandmother just gave me some information about your father –“
“Yes, what is it?   Please I have to know how he really died!” he said insistently.
I took another breath and told him what I knew.
“Your father is not dead – he left you and your brother when you were both very young.  Your mother told you he was dead because it was easier and she wanted you to look up to a male figure.  He also had a falling out with your grandmother and never saw her again either - even when he knew she was dying – he stayed away.  Your mother was there at her side.  She loved your grandmother and that gave her some comfort.  I’m so sorry you had – “
“LIAR, you are a fake and a LIAR,” Andrew yelled.  “All you psychics are liars.  That’s not true!  It can’t be – my father died in a car crash on his way home from a business trip – he loved us – my mother told me – told us – he was a good man.”
“Okay, I’m sorry that you found out this way –“
“I’m going to call her – I’m going to call my mother and she’s going to expose you as the fraud you are – I knew it –I fucking knew it!” he took his phone out triumphantly, turned his Nokia on and quickly dialed a number.
His grandmother tried to calm him but placing her hand on his shoulder but he instinctively jerked it away.   He looked at me with his eyes flashing.
“You’ll never take another dime from another poor sucker!  You people are all alike- fucking thieves and I have the audio -“ he shouted as he pointed to the tape recorder.   I tried to stay calm but he was getting so agitated that for the first time since doing readings, I felt that my personal safety was in danger.
“Hey Mom, I’m putting you on a speaker,” he said as he plugged a little box into his phone. “I’m here with a so-called psychic and I tried to contact Dad and she has the audacity to tell me that he’s not dead.  Tell her she’s full of bullshit!” he said with an angry but vindicated smile.
There was a pause on the other end and a sigh.  Andrew looked at me and the phone.
“Mom, are you there?  Tell her how Dad died,” he said as his confidence started to waiver.
“Andrew – take me off the speaker phone – NOW!”
“No, I want her to hear it – to hear the truth!”
“Andrew, stop it – this is not one of your magic shows – you need to stop now –“
“Tell her he’s dead.  She needs to be exposed as the fraud she is-“
“Dammit Andrew – your father is not dead – I lied to protect you and your brother-“
“Wait, what?” Andrew’s face looked like that of a young boy who just found out the truth about Santa and the Easter bunny at the same time.
“Take me off speaker so that we can talk,” she said softly. 
Andrew took the little speaker off the phone and stood in the corner of my outer office and spoke to his mother quietly.  I could tell by his shoulders that he was starting to cry. 
“But what are you going to tell Randy?  He idolized Dad and it was all a lie?”
I prayed that Andrew unlike his father would still have a relationship with his mother.  My stomach was getting tighter.  I felt for the poor young man, not sure if he should have ever found out the truth.  
He got off the phone, kept his back turned to me and wiped his eyes.  He kept his head down and took a deep breath.  He started to chuckle in a weird tone.  He then turned to me - his blue eyes flashing. 
“You must have guessed right,” he said.  “Hell even a broken clock is right twice a day.  You got lucky this time –“
I saw his grandmother fly over to protect me – even she was not sure what he would do next.   I glanced at the items around me to see if I could use any of them to defend myself if it came to physical violence. 
“I’m sorry this was not the answer that you expected. You don’t have to pay me – you can just go-“
“Oh great – I don’t have to pay you for ruining my life.  Thanks so fucking much!” he said as he started to move towards me with his fists clinched.
His grandmother moved in front of me as he advanced.  She knocked the phone out of his hand.
“What the fu-“ he started to say.
Just then she started to pull books off the shelves that lined my office
and they fell to his feet.   Both he and I looked startled.  I didn’t think the old ghost was capable of what she was doing but she was equally angry. 
“YOUNG FOOL!” she shouted and I could tell by his sudden reaction that he heard it as well. 
“I don’t know how you are doing this – but I’m not impressed.  Probably some springs on the bookcase.  I’m not one of your fucking rubes. Stop it now!” Andrew insisted trying not to show his fear.
“YOU ARE TOO PROUD – THIS WOMAN TRIES TO HELP AND YOU MOCK HER.  I LOVED YOU ANDY AND THIS IS MY THANKS?  GO TO YOUR MOTHER AND TELL HER YOU LOVE HER!” his grandmother bellowed as if all her fury at her son was manifesting now towards her grandson.

“You must think I’m pretty stupid.  This is all a lie – to trick me but I must admit your production values are pretty good,” he started to laugh in a weird high pitched tone.  He started to walk over the books toward me – his face flushed with rage.

Just then I heard the door to my outer office open.
“Hey babe, I was wondering if you wanted to get some lunch,” my husband Jess said as he saw Andrew from behind walking slowly up to me his hands opening and closing and the frightened look on my face. 
“Sophia, what the hell?” 
Andrew turned and saw Jess as I was backing away.   I stumbled over the chair falling back to the floor.  Jess, who used to be a sprinter in college, literally leapt between us.
“Hey tell your yard boy to back off,” Andrew said thinking that because Jess was black – he was the hired help.  That remark along with the sense that I was in danger sent my usually mellow husband into grizzly bear mode who was capable of mauling any one who would come near me.
“Get the fuck away from my wife!” Jess said using all of his 6’2” frame to tower over Andrew.

Andrew looked like someone had thrown cold water in his face.  His skin was mottled and red - his eyes holding back more tears.  He backed off. 
“I am not WEAK!” he yelled back to his grandmother and then centered himself.  His anger was fading and now he just looked like a lost little boy who was trying his best to not let on how scared he really was.
“You need to get out of here now before I call the cops!” Jess said in a quiet menacing growl that I had never heard before as he helped me up off the ground.

Andrew looked down and then realized that the tape was still running. The entire episode had been captured on audio.  He seized the tape recorder triumphantly. 
“Here I have evidence – that she’s a fraud!” he said holding up the device which was still recording.
“Evidence of your mother telling you that I was in fact right about your dad or the evidence of your grandmother speaking from beyond.  Or the racist remark you made toward my husband. Take your pick - please use it so I can be proved right!” I said.  Now that I was on my feet, I wanted to punch the crap out of this arrogant little shit. 

Andrew realized that I had snatched victory from his jaws and looked angry again. 
“You will not prevail – I will spend my life proving that you are a fake -that all mediums are fakes just like Houdini.   I don’t know how you knew what you did and how you replicated Grand Ella’s voice but it was a sham – I will unmask you and expose your tricks!”
He took out something the size of an egg and threw it down on the ground – it let off a puff of smoke.  My guess would be so he could escape out the front. But the smoke started to clear and we saw him struggling to open the office door.  He threw out another smoke screen in which he managed to get out the door but we heard him coughing as he left the building.   It was so absurd, Jess and I started to laugh out of relief.  Our laughter died down and we began to feel the severity of what had just happened.
“Sophia, that guy was a total nut job – are you okay?” he said looking serious and holding me close to him.
“Yes, just a little shaken up,” I replied.
“You need to cancel the rest of your appointments – I don’t want you doing this anymore.”
“Jess, I can’t just cancel – some of the people seeing me today traveled a long distance to meet me.  If I stop seeing people suddenly, it will get out to the press and that Andrew person will have gotten what he wants, I’m not giving into that asshole!”
“Then get an office in my building, there’s a security guard in the front – a coffee shop and I know how you love your coffee,“ he said as he smoothed my hair down to calm me.
“That is so sweet my clientele like coming to a non-discrept place that is private.  An office building where they would have to sign-in is not private and then there are all those office people around and their dead relatives might come through –I’d get overloaded –“
“Okay, okay - but no more seeing your clients alone.  I don’t have any more appointments today so I’ll call the office and finish my proposal from here.  I brought my laptop so I can work on getting you an assistant who is also a linebacker,” he said as he turned my face to his and kissed me.  The warmth of his chest and lips were comforting.  I wished that I didn’t have more clients because I loved these quiet moments between us.  In a weird way, I was grateful that we were having this time together. Grandma Ella watched us and smiled. 

“My Andrew will probably be back. I’m sorry Miss Sophia.  I will try to keep - to keep him away but he is a stubborn boy and as you can see not the magic man he fancies himself to be – the ‘Incredible Andy’ he calls himself. He has a hard time realizing he is wrong.”   She nodded to me and faded out.
Jess and I ordered pizza and put my office back in order before my next client - a single mother who was trying to get closure on her mother’s death in a car accident.  Much to Jess’ chagrine, I would not charge her either. I knew that reading would be difficult but worthwhile – she truly needed to be able to say good-bye and know how much her mother loved her.
As I started to close the shades around my office at the end of the day, I saw Andrew across the street just looking at the office.  He saw me, waved and then took out another smoke bomb.  This time he actually managed to disappear.