Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Long Island Medium - is she for real?

A charming, animated blond lady on TV (TLC - "the Learning Channel") named Theresa Caputo, has intrigued many of those who have cable TV. She calls herself, "The Long Island Medium".  In show's introduction, she claims that although she thinks of herself as a "typical Long Island (NY) housewife", she has a special ability - she can talk to the dead, later explaining that "spirits", presumably of dead people, come to her and she feels compelled to tell those around her about this, apparently at a decent profit to her - enough to have enabled her hubby to sell his business and become a "house husband". Truly, not many "typical Long Island housewives" earn $400,000 bucks for each TV Season and that's not counting what she gets for private readings (estimates range from $100 per to $500 per reading) for which I last heard, she's booked solid for 2 years or more in advance).  One blog estimated Theresa' net worth as over 2.4 million bucks. (ibid)

Caputo has her share of loyal, believing fans, enough to fill auditoriums on her tours even though a seat in the audience is far from inexpensive, prices ranging from $100 to 4 figures (for the "good seats in front").

She also has her share of naysayers.  She claims she doesn't care if people don't believe in "what she does" but I suspect at least according to one article, she may care more than she says - she apparently, had a naysayer removed from the auditorium in a Boston appearance... supposedly, this women claimed (rather loudly) that Theresa's reading was incorrect. I would bet this might have happened more than once.

It appeared that Theresa did not want to be wrong or she felt so strongly about the message that she seemed to almost forget about the other 2,999 people witnessing this. She overheard the woman say this is “bullsh-t” and all hell broke loose. By this time Theresa had lost her temper and requested that security physically escort the woman out of the Wang theater for disagreeing and I suppose disrespecting her. After all it is her show.

For the show, "Long Island Medium", she has been said to spend 45 minutes in private with each person who appears on the show.

People have been asking themselves if there is a way to discern the truth of her claims from the TV show.  Although the belief that dead people are readily available for visiting the living is widespread (people don't want to believe in more of a separation), it is in opposition to Christian doctrine which states that after death - we either go to a place to complete our perfection in preparation for entrance into Heaven ("Nothing imperfect shall enter Heaven") or occasionally, as in the case of a handful of saints, we go directly or almost directly to our eternity.  In any  case, people who have passed would not be easily available for "readings".

Ironically, Caputo has said more than a few times that she is Catholic - although, it is unknown whether she regularly attends Mass.  That being said, there are some Catholics who work as mediums or "soothsayers" despite the fact that this is opposed to Catholic beliefs.  Unfortunately, many Catholic people seem confused about what our church teaches and sadly, even in asking a priest about things like ESP, at least some priests will opt out of a definitive answer, by saying "well the church says it's not true but who really knows?" (a quote of an answer I got from an elderly priest).

A more pressing question in some of our minds is, is Caputo real or merely a good entertainer?

Caputo appears to believe that what she does is the real thing but if she actually believes it, is unclear.  It's clear that she's the highest paid medium or soothsayer in the USA (a fact which seems to raise a bit of ire in others in her field).  

In watching her work, even on TV which is greatly edited, it's rather clear that she is employing a method called "Cold reading" in which the "reader" throws out general statements to a large audience and allows the believers present, to fill him/her in on the details. 

Example: the medium will say to an audience, "who is the young male who passed?" and at least one person will speak up and give the details. (The chances of one person or more in an audience having suffered a recent death, are good). The medium jumps on the details and  claims to be contacting the person who passed who is giving the individual a message.  In Theresa's case, the message is usually "he/she wants you to know that she/he's at peace and watching over you!". People who want to believe, seem very consoled at the moment but whether they are really consoled after extracting themselves from Theresa and her charismatic presentation is unclear as I have not met any Caputo audience members personally to interview them about their feelings.  People who have been to other readers whom I've interviewed seem divided - most take the readings as entertainment but not something upon which to make an important life decision which is likely a good idea.

It's not clear how many people really "believe" in her but though many say that she's not doing any harm because she appears to be consoling the grieving - the question rises if consoling people with possibly false information is really consoling beyond the excitement of the moment, in the audience.

Theresa appears to cleverly read people's body language etc and she's quick witted, intelligent and charming.  She's also entertaining which actually raises serious questions about the truth of her readings - often the prominent thing on folks' minds is not the positive but a pending divorce, a recent death or even physical illness, and reading this type of thing is anything but entertaining.

It's possible that she may be using telepathy (mind reading) but the idea that dead people simply hang out around earth is contrary to most religions and doesn't make a lot of sense if you think about it. Why would people want to hang around earth rather than moving on to better things?  Could she be contacting satanic angels who are play acting the beloved dead?  If she really were contacting spirits, perhaps this would be a possibility (and a scary one - people don't want to mess with this - which is why there are warnings in the Bible etc) however I'm not convinced she's doing anything more than sizing up people, using a system of clever guessing (only positive things, of course, she assures us).

Theresa is above all, a talented, charming entertainer which is how she not only scored a high rated show on "TLC" (The Learning Channel, somewhat euphemistically named i.e. I haven't seen much there which transcends the realm of good entertainment into being truly educational!). People who don't have a strong religious belief and thus, are searching for God, readily find in people like Theresa, a good "God substitute" at least at the moment however, Theresa doesn't offer much consolation for life's rough places or as the old saying states "There are no atheists in foxholes".

The "Inside Edition blog" summed it up well - Enjoy her show but watch it with a "huge grain of salt"!