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Medium James Van Praagh Earns His Place on Bob Olson’s “Tested As Legitimate” List on

I recently saw James Van Praagh at a live mediumship demonstration in Newburyport, Massachusetts where he gave random readings to audience members from stage. Even though I have researched psychic mediums since 1999 and tested hundreds of psychic mediums from around the world, I was absolutely blown away by Van Praagh's readings that evening. In fact, I have never seen a better reading than what I witnessed on that stage when Van Praagh connected with a young girl in spirit with such clarity and details--all which were confirmed as correct by her parents in the audience. Even the skeptics in attendance were in complete awe. ~ Bob Olson

When I began researching psychics and mediums in 1999, one of the first books I read on the subject of spirit communication was James Van Praagh’s Talking To Heaven. It’s still one of my favorite books. What I loved about it the most at that time was that James seemed like a regular guy who just happened to have this extraordinary ability to communicate with spirits. And now that I know him personally, I’ve come to realize that he’s exactly as he comes across in that book—authentic, grounded and normal.

This was important to me in the early years of my investigation. Being a skeptic and private investigator, I resisted psychics or mediums who were too new age-y or woo-woo. James Van Praagh came across as the guy-next-door both in his book and on his TV appearances to promote that book. And, as a result, he made mediumship seem like an extraordinary gift rather than a strange paranormal phenomenon.


I don’t think enough people realize how much James Van Praagh has been a trailblazer in the psychic and medium field. He was one of the first of our generation to legitimize spirit communication and teach mainstream America the difference between psychics (who read energy) and mediums (who communicate with spirits). When I first began investigating the afterlife in 1999, most people didn’t know that spirit communication was possible, never mind know the difference between a psychic and a medium. James’ career as a medium, author and television producer has significantly helped change the face of mediumship from being a purposeless pastime for naïve believers to being a legitimate service to comfort the grieving.

Additionally, when James Van Praagh’s first book, Talking To Heaven, jumped to number one on the New York Times bestseller’s list, this achievement, along with James’ radio and TV appearances to promote the book, quickly gave mediums in this country (and around the world) the courage to come out of the closet (due to fear of public skepticism) and be proud of what they do. It also made it easy for mediums to explain what they do since so few people in the late 1990s had ever heard of mediumship. Suddenly, mediums were able to explain their ability to people by simply saying, “Do you know James Van Praagh? I do what he does.”

In fact, that’s how I explained my investigation of this field. Everyone knew what a psychic was back then, but people were often confused when I talked about testing “mediums.” So I would refer to James Van Praagh when explaining my research, because so many people had read his book or seen him on one of his television appearances. When James got his own TV show in 2002, titled Beyond With James Van Praagh, it made explaining my work that much easier.


That was just the beginning for James. From there he went on to write Reaching To Heaven, Healing Grief, Heaven And Earth, Ghosts Among Us, Unfinished Business, Looking Beyond (for teens) and his latest book (at the time of this writing), Growing Up In Heaven. He even wrote a book on meditation.

Following his daytime television talk show, Beyond With James Van Praagh, he produced a successful TV mini-series about his life on CBS entitled Living With The Dead starring the ever-popular Ted Danson from Cheers fame (playing the role of James Van Praagh) and Mary Steenburgen. James also produced The Dead Will Tell on that network starring Anne Heche and Eva Longoria (before her Desperate Housewives infamy). And he was Co-Executive Producer of the CBS primetime series Ghost Whisperer starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, which ran for 5 seasons. We can only guess what might come next.

James Van Praagh has now been working as a medium and teaching people about life after death for over 30 years. It’s a mind-blowing career, but it hasn’t come without turbulence. Because of his success and notoriety, as well as the skepticism surrounding mediumship, James has been a popular target of a skeptical media who are guilty of editing film footage and twisting James’ words in biased journalism for the purpose of sensationalism and higher ratings. While these people are the minority, I give James Van Praagh a lot of credit for the persistence and passion required to continue his work after the manipulation of truth by some media personnel who have tried to lift their status up by taking him down.

James’ longevity in this field—and what he’s done to comfort the grieving and teach people about the afterlife—is both commendable and courageous. Under the circumstances, most mediums would have folded to the pressure and surrendered to a quiet life of giving private readings in the country somewhere. Not James Van Praagh. He continues to write books, make television appearances, present live events, and even produce TV shows, all which educate the public about life after death and continue to bring solace to the bereaved.


In early 2011, I finally got to meet James Van Praagh in person and witness him giving readings first-hand. I had been invited to introduce him at an event he was presenting in Massachusetts. After more than a decade of watching this man’s career from afar, I now had the opportunity to spend the evening with James and get know him personally.

We spent some time together before the event and arrived at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport, Massachusetts shortly before opening. I introduced James to the audience and then sat in the theatre to watch him work. I’d seen James on television and YouTube, of course, but it’s my policy to not write about a medium unless I actually witness him or her giving a reading live, in person.

The fact is that it was never my intention to add James Van Praagh to my “Tested as Legitimate” list, so I didn’t even take notes. In truth, I didn’t really expect James to be out of the ordinary. I’ve learned from experience that just because a medium is famous doesn’t mean he’s any better than other non-famous mediums. But all that changed as I watched his presentation that evening. With each new message he delivered, I realized that this guy needed to be on my recommended list. His readings were truly extraordinary.

James came onto the stage like a ball of lightning. Anyone who knows him or has seen him on stage knows he’s a bundle of positive energy, which transferred into the audience within seconds of his arrival at the microphone. In no time at all, James had everyone laughing, relaxed and having a great time. He told stories about some of his most interesting readings, explained how he connects with spirits, and taught us that we all have some ability to do what he does. It was at that point that he took everyone through a meditation.

After the meditation, which helped get the audience in the right state of mind for readings, James Van Praagh began giving readings. This is where he took me completely by surprise by how good he was. I’ve tested psychics and mediums from all around the world—some of the best that exist—so I honestly wasn’t expecting to be blown away. But when James Van Praagh began giving readings, I almost fell out of my chair because his messages were so clear and accurate. And I truly loved that he didn’t ask any leading questions (that was especially impressive).

Since I was emceeing the event that evening and was responsible for segueing the audience between breaks, I didn’t bring a notebook and wasn’t taking notes. I can’t tell you how much I regret not having some written or audiotaped recording of his readings that night so that I could pass along to you the mind-blowing details he conveyed from spirit. I was sitting next to friends in the audience and just kept looking at them with my mouth dropped wide-open every time James nailed some obscure fact that he could not have possibly known without getting the specifics from spirit.

There was one reading where James connected with a little girl in spirit that I will never forget. He knew exactly how the little girl’s hair was done and what she was wearing when she was buried, the cause of her passing, what was secretly put into her casket by loved ones, words that were spoken immediately prior to her passing, what her favorite shirt looked like and even the words that were written on it, and a whole list of names, dates and memories that were eerily accurate and all verified by her family members who were sitting in the audience.

If I had to choose the most impressive reading in terms of specific details that I have ever witnessed in my entire research of mediums, this reading with this little girl would be the winner. And James gave several more readings that evening that came in as close seconds. I’m telling you the guy was hot that night.

Thanks to his extraordinary readings that evening, I now knew why James Van Praagh had become a household name. I also knew long before the readings were over that James Van Praagh had earned his place on my recommended list. But then he gave me an on-the-spot private reading back stage that nailed that decision shut once and for all. He was able to hone in on some details that no one but my wife, Melissa, and myself knew about, and with absolute accuracy.

Thinking I needed to share details of his readings in this article about him, I did not add James to my Tested As Legitimate list right away. I waited for another opportunity to watch him on stage so I could take notes. Six months following that first event, I attended another James Van Praagh event at The Wilbur Theatre in Boston. This time I recorded the readings and took detailed notes. But as I write this, I realize now that none of that was necessary. The fact is that James Van Praagh is an extraordinary medium whose messages from spirit are consistently detailed and accurate. Sure I could list the remarkable messages he gave people in the audience that night from their loved ones in spirit, but how would that further my point? The best I can do now is inspire you to witness one of his events on your own so that you’ll know first-hand what I’m talking about.

I’m pleased to add James Van Praagh to my personal recommended list on James is not taking appointments for private readings, but you can still get a reading from him at one of his many live medium demonstrations. He offers larger events for one to two thousand people, but he also offers smaller “Spirit Circles” where a maximum of 150 people are allowed. He’s told me that he has plans to offer these Spirit Circles around the country.

Click to view James Van Praagh's directory page.

James Van Praagh's website is

See my interviews with James on video at


Bob Olson

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©2012 Written By Bob Olson

A former skeptic & private investigator, and the author of ANSWERS ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE: A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR'S 15-YEAR RESEARCH UNLOCKS THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE AFTER DEATH, Bob Olson has been an Afterlife Investigator & Psychic Medium Researcher since 1999. In his search for evidence of life after death, Bob has tested hundreds of psychics, mediums & other afterlife-related practitioners. Bob is the host of AFTERLIFE TV, founder of BEST PSYCHIC DIRECTORY and BEST PSYCHIC MEDIUMS, and offers his PSYCHIC MEDIUM WORKSHOP to help psychics and mediums improve their abilities and business. Visit Bob on AFTERLIFE TV's FACEBOOK page & on TWITTER.