Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ghosts in the Mist

When I was first starting to get famous as a medium in 2001, I had a pretty big fan base (keeping in mind this was before Facebook and Twitter had caught on).  I was doing the talk show circuits - Montel, Jenny Jones and Ricki Lake to name a few. My following was mostly stay at home moms and gay men.   I also had my own website (which was a big deal 13 years ago) and I had a webmaster who would manage it and pass along any interesting e-mails that might come down the pike.  

He forwarded this one e-mail to me from a mother who had been out taking pictures of holiday lights and had found this image when she developed the photos.   She was not sure what it was and asked me to take a look at it.   First thing I asked was if it was taken on a digital camera since sometimes digital cameras can capture dust and mist and make them look like ghostly orbs.  But these images were not orbs - it seemed to be a face of a man in a tri-cornered hat like in the Revolutionary War.   There also seemed to be a hand around the mouth of the revolutionary man - so it looked disturbing.  However, the image appeared very light so I 
e-mailed her that I thought that it was a spirit guide and not to worry - it might even be an ancestor and maybe the hand was from a second entity.  She e-mailed that she was relived and thanked me profusely. She also mentioned that her little daughter Nikki was a big fan. I thought that was cute but honestly didn't think any more about it. 

In 2002, the same Mom e-mailed the website
again, but this time it was more frantic.  There seemed to be apparitions standing behind her children at the same park in Tallahassee where they went for holiday lights the prior year.   Again, I asked if this was a digital photo and she assured me that it was a 35 mm print.  She also sent the original photo image from the prior year for me to compare.  I realized that the four entities in the second photo were stuck together in the first image which would explain the random hand around the mouth.  The way that the spirits were arranged around the children both startled me and made me smile.  It was as if they were  surrounding the little ones - wanting to have their picture taken and saying - "Hey, how's it going? It's us - the spirit world - Merry Christmas!"  This time I was sure what they were and I actually called the mother to talk to her directly.  I told her that the images I saw were spirit guides and that her children were well protected and not to worry.  I could hear the relief in her voice and could also hear a little girl in the background asking if she could talk to me.   The mother asked if it was okay and I was more than happy to talk to her.   

A little six year old voice came on the phone and announced - "Hello Miss Sophia, my name is Nikki and I have a message for you."   I started to smile and thought that was adorable but didn't expect what came next.   "Sassy likes to come over to my house and have tea parties with me and my fat cat Gizmo. Why don't you play tea party with her anymore?"   I gasped a little bit and almost dropped the phone - Sassy was my baby cat who was killed by a car when I was about the same age as Nikki and we used to have tea parties together.  I have never talked
about Sassy in interviews so there was no way this child could have known about her or what she meant to me. I started to tear up and didn't speak for a few seconds.  Little Nikki pressed on.  "Hey, are you still there?  You need to play with Sassy!"  I could hear her Mom trying to get the phone but I wanted to say something to Nikki.  "No, it's okay, you're right Nikki, I need to play with Sassy more.  You are a very perceptive little girl.   Thank you for reminding how much fun I used to have with her when I was your age.  Give you kitty Gizmo and your Mom a big hug for me!"   

The next thing I heard was the phone plunk on the counter and Nikki yelling "Mom, I need to hug you and Gizmo for Miss Sophia!"  Nikki's mother got on the phone and apologized.  She mentioned that Nikki was always saying crazy things like that - saying things she couldn't possibly know about.  I felt transported in time for a few seconds - remembering what it was like to have these abilities at a young age and embarrassing my parents left and right.   "Hey, you need to encourage her.  She has a gift, a real gift. Those things are not crazy, they are spot on.  Maybe that's why the spirits were drawn to her.  I said that I would be willing to talk to Nikki once a month if she wanted me to.   When her mother told her, I could hear Nikki's singing - "Yes, yes, I'm going to do the happy awesome dance!"  

I put the phone down and tried to keep my emotions in check - this child was me at six but I didn't have anyone to help guide and I was going to make Goddamn sure that she did. So for about six months I was pretty faithful about calling and talking to her.  Then I got more TV offers and life got in the way.  The calls got to be few and far between - maybe once every six months but every time I called she was so happy to hear from me.  This went on for a couple of years but then fame and my marriage started to spiral out of control and the calls stopped completely.

In 2012, my weakest moment was caught on video at Clairvoyant Con.  Jess, my husband, had just left me a few weeks before and it was pretty public knowledge.  I was drinking heavily and making appearances half wasted because that was the only way I could cope.   I walked out on stage to the sounds of applause and bright lights which made my buzz even worse.  A young girl who looked to be about 16 raised her hand and asked me what it was like to be a medium - her face was sweet and bright with her whole world in front of her.   

For a few seconds I tried to remember what it was like to be that age when life was so full of possibilities - when I hadn't had the crap kicked out of me so many times.  Then I remembered being that age, with no friends and parents that wanted me out of the house.  I didn't want that future for this sweet young thing.  I asked her if that was what she wanted to be and she sweetly replied that "I think I'm good at it and it seems like fun."   My head reeled - "Are you fucking kidding me?  You think it's fun?" I said to myself and then proceeded to go on a tirade to talk her out of being a medium.  "It's like being stuck in a cubicle with annoying co-workers who never leave you along- it sucks!  Please do something else with your life!" I implored.  

She looked dejected and sat down.  I then realized how harsh and bitchy I was.  I was about to apologize when a stupid redneck started calling me a fake.   So I did what most half drunk mediums would do under the same circumstances - I beat the shit out of him.  I tried to find that girl later and apologize but there was no way to find her and security would not let me back into the building.  

When the video of me losing it went viral, I lost my TV appearances, book deals, private readings - just about everything.  Some mediums applauded me for standing my ground and taking that asshole to task but what most folks saw was a drunk woman out of control and they left comments like that under the video.   Then some folks started making fun of the girl who was asking me about being a medium and that infuriated me.  It was bad enough that I was mean to her but the rest of the world didn't need to pile on.  One of her friends left a comment defending her and mentioned that her name was Nikki.  Holy shit!  It was then that I realized who that sweet girl was - she was the little Nikki that I used to talk to. 

She came to me for help and all I did was condescend and try to talk her out of being who she was.  It seemed sadly familiar - I became the people who used to bully me.   I tried to reach out to her mother again, but she would have nothing to do with me which I understood and frankly deserved.  I wanted to make things right - not because a 12-step program told me I had to - it was because I had hurt someone who once looked up to me and all I did was screw things up.  I've tried to see if she had a Facebook account or if she would follow me on Twitter but she doesn't seem to have an account - probably because of all the on-line bullying from the video.  I feel sick inside every time I think about it.

So the moral of the story is to never ever make someone who comes to you for help feel like shit for asking.  I wish I could take that day back - or at least take back making her feel bad.  Nikki, if you are reading this - I am so very, very sorry.  I fucked up - plain and simple.  I said I would be there for you and I wasn't.  You must be 18 or 19 years old now and I hope that you didn't take my advice -that you have been using your gift and have your mother, family and friends around you who love and support you. Those young adult years can be tough when you're a medium. I hope one day you can forgive me and maybe we can have some coffee together and you can tell me about how many people you've helped and how happy you are.   I would love to know that you didn't listen that crazy drunk woman (whose stopped drinking by the way) and made it on your own.  I would really love to hear from you.  

Sophia Gardeen is a nationally recognized medium who is currently working on Ghost Wanderers for the Supernatural Channel.  She also makes one hell of a good pecan pie!