Imagine hundreds of people filling the – many clutching photos and bags of cremated remains, wearing trinkets from their loved ones – gathered around one mission: to commune with dead people.
This was the scene recently on the day Theresa Caputo came to town for two Saturday shows. She's the "Long Island Medium" who's entered many homes – not by telepathy but by television; she's the star of the TLC show by that name.
Only briefly was Caputo even on the spare stage (just a stool and a table), giving a little backstory on how she's always had a “gift” but didn't accept it until she was in her 20s. Her very dedazzled crazy-tall stilettos glistened in the stage lights with her puff of super-coifed yellow hair (“the higher the hair, the closer to God” she said) and she answered some questions submitted from the audience. Then she was off to roam the aisles and pick up frequencies or whatever it is that enables her to zone in on those with particular loss. It became apparent very quickly that this meant everyone – or at least those who come to her show.
So many seemed so eager to be the one receiving Caputo's message from the beyond. She would approach one section of the crowd, saying “Who here has lost a mother,” “a brother,” “someone with the name of the J” and multiple people (even those far, far away in another section or even screaming from the balcony) would say “I have!” “me!” “over here!” “yes!”. Two women sitting next to us (they were among those with photos and a bag of gray powder) were so hungry to talk to their loved one it hurt.
Of course I was there not with such spiritual intent but as a critic and that left me feeling guilty in a hall full of such earnest longing and grief. Both my husband and I, skeptics as we were, did leave (somewhat more) convinced. Many times it was hard to believe Caputo was really specifically channeling any dead people when she would relay very general messages that might apply to anyone, that is if you were as Catholic as she is, as her dead people often seemed to want to mention the placement of Virgin Mary figurines and the like. But then there moments when the weird specifics she did zero in on would leave the recipient awash in tears and me just goosebumpy.
There was the woman who lost her young daughter: Caputo asked from afar if she was wearing a lock of her hair in her necklace – why yes! Then there was the woman who carried her baggage around for decades of feeling responsible for her brother's death in a car accident. The woman was wearing a long-sleeve shirt. “Do you have a word like 'faith' or 'power' tattooed on your arm?” Caputo asked. “Yes, 'spirit.'”
Caputo said that messages would often cluster, with spirits tending to “piggyback” onto each other and people who happened to be sitting next to each other relating in unexpected ways to the beyond. There was a man wearing a baseball hat and a Mickey Mouse shirt named Frank, sitting near a woman who lost a Frank, and another whose lost child had a special Mickey Mouse toy and liked to wear baseball hats.
For those Caputo talked to directly, the night seemed very satisfying, if a few seconds of consolation from the beyond like “I'm okay" or "the way you kept my room is nice” is sufficient. For the women sitting next to us who didn't get their personal message, it probably was a bit deflating. For me and my husband, lucky in lack of (recent, aching) loss I suppose, it was only strange and intriguing.
The power for me lay more with the audience itself than the messenger or whatever messages Caputo conveyed (which never seemed very deep to me as these deceased were very fixated on trinkets). All these otherwise normal-looking people in their normal clothes were all actually in various states of mourning, and it reminded how death indeed is with all of us all the time, whether we wear it around our neck in a locket or not.