James Van Praagh
|James Van Praagh|
23 August 1958 |
Bayside, Queens, New York City, New York, U.S.
James Van Praagh (/ /; born August 23, 1958) is an American author, producer and television personality who describes himself as a clairvoyant and spiritual medium. He has written numerous books, including The New York Times bestseller Talking to Heaven. He co-executive produced the CBS primetime series The Ghost Whisperer, which was based on his life, and was portrayed by Ted Danson in the 2002 semibiographical miniseries Living with the Dead. He hosted a short-lived paranormal talk show called Beyond with James Van Praagh.
Early life and education
Van Praagh was born in Bayside, New York and is the youngest of four children. He has said that from an early age he experienced spiritual phenomena, including one when as an 8 year old praying to God a glowing open hand appeared through his ceiling, an experience he described as peaceful. Raised Roman Catholic, he was an altar boy and at the age of 14 he attended pre-seminary. According to his website, he lost interest in organized religion and left the seminary after a spirit whispered to him, "God is much bigger than these four walls; you must leave and find God outside in the world." His mother, Jeanne, died in 1985 and Van Praagh claims she visits and guides him frequently.
He graduated from San Francisco State University, where he majored in Broadcasting and Communications, and subsequently moved to Los Angeles. It was there that he discovered a direct interest in spiritualism after visiting medium Brian Hurst, who upon meeting Van Praagh told him that he's a medium and that the spirit world would assist him in "changing the consciousness of the planet.”
His early career consisted of private readings for clients by allegedly communicating with the spirits of their dearly departed, and quickly graduated to wider audiences through the sale and distribution of a series of audiotapes and books In the early 1990s he began appearing on the NBC paranormal talk show The Other Side, where he became a resident expert. Van Praagh credits an appearance on Larry King Live in 1997 to promote his new book Talking to Heaven for his gaining worldwide exposure. "The book went from 6,000 copies to 600,000 copies in less than three months," he said. He has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Dr. Phil, A&E’s Biography, Nightline, Unsolved Mysteries, The View, The Joy Behar Show, the Today, Chelsea Lately, and Coast to Coast. He worked with a non-profit called The Compassionate Friends, an organization for people who lost children or siblings. He is also a regular blogger for The Huffington Post
The central tenet of Van Praagh's work is that there is no death and that people who have passed away still exist, only in a different form. Van Praagh claims these spirits help guide him, and that they have told him there are "many levels of Heaven and we get to that level we have created by our thoughts, words and deeds while on earth."
Van Praagh has written numerous books that have been translated into multiple languages and sold in the millions. His 1999 book Talking to Heaven, which recounts stories about his contact with the deceased, held the top slot on the New York Times Best Seller List for weeks. In 2009 he released Ghosts Among Us, which goes in to detail about ghosts and the spirit world. His most recent book, Growing Up in Heaven: The Eternal Connection Between Parent and Child, gives a detailed portrayal of what he claims happens to the souls of children after they die.
Living with the Dead
In April 2002, CBS aired Living with the Dead (also known by the alternate title, Talking to Heaven), a four hour miniseries based on Van Praagh and directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal, with the screenplay by John Pielmeier. Although the series followed Van Praagh's experiences, it included a fictional mystery around the murder of a teenage boy at the hands of a serial killer. Van Praagh was played by Ted Danson, his mother by Diane Ladd and his father by Jack Palance. Danson received praise from outlets like the Chicago Tribune and People for his portrayal of Van Praagh as a man anguished by his life-long visions of the dead, including his mother.
Beyond with James Van Praagh
During the success of the paranormal television show Crossing Over with John Edward in the early 2000s, Van Praagh and Tribune Entertainment launched Beyond with James Van Praagh, a short-live paranormal talk show that aired on the WB Network from September 2002 until January 2003. Beyond followed a similar format as Crossing Over, with Van Praagh giving audience members and celebrities readings, as well as field investigations into crimes and missing persons.
Talking with the Dead
CBS aired Talking with the Dead (also known by the alternative title, The Dead Will Tell), a thriller based on Van Praagh's experiences and directed by Stephen Kay, on October 24, 2004. Anne Heche produced and starred in the film as Emily Parkes, a woman who receives an antique engagement ring from her fiancé and begins to have visions of its murdered previous owner. The made-for-TV movie also starred Eva Longoria, Christopher Guest and Chris Sarandon.
The Ghost Whisperer
Van Praagh served as co-executive producer on the CBS show Ghost Whisperer starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. Ghost Whisperer was based on the work and experiences of Van Praagh and ran for five seasons from September 23, 2005 to May 21, 2010 on CBS.
There have been several prominent skeptics of the paranormal who have questioned Van Praagh's abilities. The James Randi Educational Foundation made a public offer to Van Praagh through the Huffington Post to take the JREF One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge to test his psychic abilities. According to James Randi, "James Van Praagh and Allison DuBois have turned the huckster art of ‘cold reading' into a multi-million-dollar industry, preying on families' deepest fears and regrets.”
In 2008, Barbara Walters called Van Praagh dangerous when, after he told her privately that she had an elevated white blood-cell count, test results showed no blood abnormalities. Van Praagh felt vindicated when, two years later, Walters went for open-heart surgery to replace an Aortic valve.
In an interview with Examiner.com Van Praagh addressed his skeptics saying "I believe everyone has a right to believe the way they are going to believe. I think it is good to be skeptical but not cynical."
Paranormal investigator Joe Nickell believes Van Praagh uses tactics like hot reading, or gleaning information from sitters beforehand. Group readings improve the odds that at least one person in the audience will identify with a general statement made with conviction. Shows are edited before airing to show only what appear to be hits and removing anything that does not reflect well on the medium. In 2003 the Independent Investigations Group attended a taping of Van Praagh's talk show Beyond. According to the IIG, there were differences between the live segments and how they were edited for broadcast. In one of the live shows they witnessed, Van Praagh was signing books and chatted with a woman who was from Italy. During the taping he asked if there was "someone from another country" and the same woman raised her hand, which to the investigators was evidence of a "hot reading."
In Skeptic Magazine, Michael Shermer stated that Van Praagh was "caught" using a hot reading technique on 20/20, and that numerous television producers have confirmed that Van Praagh uses hot reading techniques. Shermer quotes producer Leah Hanes as stating:
I can’t say I think James Van Praagh is a total fraud, because he came up with things I hadn’t told him, but there were moments on the show when he appeared to be coming up with fresh information that he got from me and other researchers earlier on. For example, I recall him asking about the profession of the deceased loved one of one of our guests, and I told him he was a fireman. Then, when the show began, he said something to the effect, "I see a uniform. Was he a policeman or fireman please?" Everyone was stunned, but he got that directly from me.
- Praagh, James Van (2009). Ghosts among us : uncovering the truth about the other side (1st HarperCollins pbk. ed. ed.). New York: HarperOne. ISBN 0-06-155338-7.
- Praagh, James Van (2009). Unfinished business : what the dead can teach us about life (1st ed. ed.). New York: HarperOne. ISBN 0-06-177814-1.
- Praagh, with James Van (2003). Meditations. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2943-6.
- Praagh, James Van (2003). Looking beyond : a teen's guide to the spiritual world. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2942-8.
- Praagh, James Van (2002). Heaven and earth : making the psychic connection. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-7432-2726-3.
- Praagh, James Van (2000). Healing grief : reclaiming life after any loss. New York: New American Library. ISBN 0-451-20169-8.
- Praagh, James Van (1999). Talking to heaven : a medium's message of life after death. New York: Penguin Group. ISBN 0-451-19172-2.
- Praagh, James Van (1999). Reaching to heaven : a spiritual journey through life and death. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0-525-94481-8.
- Cold reading
- Extrasensory perception
- List of parapsychology topics
- List of psychic abilities
- Paranormal phenomena
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- About James Van Praagh, official website; accessed February 17, 2013
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- James Van Praagh: A Psychic On A Mission, Jessica Davis, Palm Dessert Patch, December 2, 2011; accessed February 17, 2013
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- , The Huffington Post synopsis; accessed February 14, 2013
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- Medium Rare, Tom Gliatto, People, May 6, 2002; accessed February 17, 2013
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- The Dead Will Tell, New York Times synopsis; accessed February 13, 2013
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- 'Told you so': psychic predicted Babs surgery, Linda Stasi, New York Post, May 12, 2010; accessed February 16, 2013
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- "James Van Praagh on: Connecting to Spirits Beyond the Grave". Examiner.com. September 20, 2012.
- "Investigative Files: John Edward: Hustling the Bereaved". CSI. Nov–Dec 2001. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
- Underdown, James (Sept–Oct 2003). "TV psychics John Edward and John Van Praagh". Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 27 (5): 41–45.
- Shermer, Michael. "Talking Twaddle with the Dead". Skeptic Magazine. 06 Number 1. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
- "CNN, Larry King Live Transcripts". Retrieved 2012-05-03.
- James Van Praagh - Official Website
- James Van Praagh at the Internet Movie Database
- personal reading: http://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/talking-to-the-dead-james-Van-praagh-tested