A reader sends this most excellent Dreher bait: the story of Lisa Chase, a woman whose dead husband contacted her in eerie and undeniable ways. Excerpts:
Up until a year ago, I’d never visited a psychic, never had my palms or tarot cards read. I wasn’t exactly a skeptic, but you have to trust the people who practice such things, you have to buy into their cosmologies, and I didn’t, quite.
But for a few years, in my thirties, I called an astrologer around my birthday. I had a hippie aunt who, when I was 16, gave me a present of an astrological chart. It was fun; it seemed to confirm who I am—a pragmatic Capricorn—and the ancientness of the art, the systematicness of it, the universality, appealed to me.
The last time I talked to the astrologer, I was told two significant things. One delighted me. The other I put deep in the vault of my subconscious. That’s how we in this Anthropocene era interface with the paranormal and the metaphysical. If we get a prophecy we like, we keep it at our fingertips, bring it out at dinner parties, tweet it to our followers: “@amazingpsychic told me I’d meet my soul mate next month. #cosmic #blessed.” If we get bad news, we can decide that it was delivered by a charlatan and disregard it. Because our navel-gazing, technology-is-God culture doesn’t fundamentally believe in anything bigger than ourselves (What could be bigger?), we don’t have any rules of the road to evaluate what we hear and who is delivering our para-, meta-messages. We’re each on our own recognizance.
It was a little over a decade ago. I was 39 years old, 10 weeks pregnant with my son—though after a previous miscarriage, I wasn’t telling anyone about this pregnancy. The astrologer read my chart and said, “You’re having a baby now or very soon.” Wow, she is good, I thought. We talked about how Aquarius was in my marriage house, and so it was no surprise that my partner was an Aquarius. She told me that he was “a difficult path.” Was I sure I needed to go down it? I assured her I did, because for all the difficulties, there were many more amazing moments in my life with him. Okay, the astrologer conceded; maybe he was my “destiny.” Then she told me that something “wild” was going to happen around the time I was 50. “It’s almost like someone around you is murdered.”
That’s the one I sent deep into my Gringotts vault, to be ignored and nearly forgotten.
Well, her husband Peter died of cancer. And then the crazy synchronicities began. You have to read the piece to see the screen grab of the time her phone sent a message to itself. They kept building up, and Lisa Chase couldn’t escape the sense that Peter was trying to contact her. On the advice of a couple of friends, she telephoned a medium named Lisa Kay. The widow was skeptical, but then things started pouring out of the medium, things she couldn’t possibly have known about him and his marriage:
Lisa would be talking to me directly, then talking to … Peter? And sometimes it was if she were Peter, talking to us both. Channeling would probably be the best verb. Sometimes she said things that made no sense to me. Maybe a third of what she said could apply to anyone who’d lost a spouse; things like, “I want you to marry again,” and “It’s okay that you cried in front of me.” But there were many more specific things she said that she couldn’t have known or Googled, as several people have suggested to me.
Anyway, try Googling the name of a person you know nothing about. It takes a lot more than five minutes to navigate to the page with the right information and absorb it all—the names and details and events.
LK: He says he controlled too much. He says, ‘Take the good with the bad. I had my faults.’ He’s learning to be better at not criticizing.
Then she said something that shocked me.
LK: ‘I’m a lucky guoy. I got the better end of the deal.’
What was amazing about this was the way Lisa pronounced it: “guoy,” not “guy.” It was precisely the way Peter said it, with an exaggerated Brooklyn accent. He’d use that expression when we were making up after a fight: I’m a lucky guoy…to have you. At this point I began speaking directly to him; I couldn’t help myself.
The story gets even weirder. Finally, Lisa Chase meets the medium, Lisa Kay, for lunch:
I began to ask her about how it works, the mechanics of reading, of seeing spirits.
“First,” she said, “I don’t talk to dead people. I don’t see dead people. I hate that.” It drives her nuts. “Spirits are energy—energy can’t be destroyed, just read the quantum physicists. Max Planck. They’re just on a higher vibrational frequency, and I have to tune in to that.”
Read the whole thing. It’s worth it. I don’t know what to make of it, frankly.
I certainly don’t dismiss it as false, though I do believe that we are strictly forbidden from trying to contact the dead. In my view, this really did happen. It’s only a question of whether it is what it seems to be, or if it is a deception worked by malevolent spirits.
If this account is valid, and I’m inclined to believe that it is, the story suggests that there is a transitional state, a kind of Purgatory. This would explain how Peter is “learning.” As a believing Christian, I am naturally troubled by the lack of any Christian content in this phenomenon, but I was just the other night talking with a group of Christians, including a Catholic priest, about stories like this, and I said that some of the things I’ve seen myself don’t fit easily into my theology. I mentioned that a well-known Catholic priest once heard a ghost story from me, then shared one of his own. That priest told me that he has simply accepted that there are some things from that world that are real, but for which our theology has no adequate account.
This story of Peter and Lisa could be one of them. I hesitate to endorse the story, not because I think it’s untrue, but because I have a strong belief that God forbids us to consult mediums (Witch of Endor, ‘memba her?). I don’t want at all to be read as endorsing that kind of thing. That said, a friend of mine once inadvertently found herself accompanying a friend to a consultation with a medium (my friend didn’t know that’s where they were going until they arrived). Things happened that opened the door to contact with someone they both knew well, who had died decades earlier. I can’t give more details, because my friend swore me to secrecy, but it all ended in an old abandoned barn, with something discovered buried where the spirit of the dead man said it would be. Except when my friend and those accompanying her stood on the indicated spot and felt the ground give way slightly, indicating that something was under the surface, they became terrified, and ran away.
They never returned. The barn was eventually torn down, and grass grew over the site. They couldn’t find it now if they wanted to. They never learned what was buried there. After that, the spirit of the dead man stopped coming to my friend.
I dunno. This is a world of wonders. I’ve told the story here many times of the Cajun Catholic grandmother who had a powerful gift of spiritual discernment, one that she only used in serving a priest as he helped people with supernatural, er, problems. In How Dante Can Save Your Life, I tell the tale of how she and the priest helped resolve the difficult situation of my grandfather’s spirit lingering around my father immediately after his death. I hadn’t thought of it till now, but that woman, who passed away years ago, was a medium. I wouldn’t have used that term to describe her, because she was deeply, deeply Catholic, and would have objected to linking her work to anything that smacked of the occult. She only used her gift under the direction of her priest, and then only in specific situations. Still, that’s what she was: a medium. And it was through her that my father learned that his father could not move on until he, my dad, forgave him for the way he mistreated my dad in the final years of my grandfather’s life.
I say stay away from this stuff if you at all can; this book, about the spiritual darkness that enveloped a Greek man once he began fooling with the occult, is a very good reminder not to go looking for trouble. But sometimes, this stuff finds you. I once asked Father Termini, the old priest who ministered to people suffering from spiritual oppression, how he convinced people that these things were real. He said, quietly, “By the time they find me, they don’t need convincing.” True dat.
What do you make of Lisa Chase’s story?
UPDATE: A Twitter follower sends in this 10-minute short narrative film by the Dominicans, warning against opening doors that cannot be easily closed. It’s pretty scary: