Long Island medium
What: Theresa Caputo of the TLC “reality” show “Long Island Medium” makes an appearance in Fort Wayne.
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Embassy Theatre, 121 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Tickets: The show is sold out.
She's affable and charming, if a bit (OK, a lot) over the top.
Theresa Caputo, star of the “Long Island Medium” “reality” show, is bringing her shtick to the Embassy Theatre on Saturday. If you want to go, you're out of luck. The show is sold out.
I didn't get a chance to interview Caputo, even though I asked far enough in advance for something to be set up. Her rep said she wasn't available.
And why should she want to talk to a reporter from a newspaper in Indiana, anyway? Her show is sold out here and she's on her fifth season of “Long Island Medium” on TLC. That's the cable network once known as “The Learning Channel” and now known as the home for “reality” shows including the execrable “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and shows that exploit people who may be mentally ill, such as “My Strange Addiction” and “Hoarding.”
Not that I'm comparing “Long Island Medium” with those shows. Heck, I wanted to talk to Caputo, to see if I could get a free reading out of her. I'd love to connect with my dad and mom again. If I could, I'd ask my mom for her recipe for kidney bean salad.
Except from what I've seen of how Caputo works, her communications with the dead don't seem to be that specific. I watched a few videos of her in action on YouTube, and she seems to ask general questions that are likely to relate to someone in her audience. For example, in a group of 250, if she asks “Who's lost a spouse?” well, likely someone in the crowd has. Shouldn't Caputo be telling the audience who lost a spouse, rather than asking?
Caputo says she began seeing “spirit” at age 4. She suffered anxiety for years and finally went to a spiritual healer/teacher who told her she could communicate with “spirit.” She's been a practicing medium for over 10 years. When asked how the dead communicate with her — Does she see them? Does she hear them? — she says it's just a “feeling” that comes over her.
There are strategies mediums use in their craft that have more to do with their ability to read the people in the audience than to speak to the dead. One is “cold reading,” in which the medium asks a series of very general questions that make it seem as if she or he knows way more about the person than they do.
They tailor subsequent questions based on the participant's answers, as well as the person's physical appearance, ethnicity, age, body language, etc., and, when they miss a guess, quickly move on to another question. You can see Caputo using this technique in some of the online video clips.
Another technique mediums often employ is called the Forer effect, in which a medium describes a person in very general terms that might apply to a large number of people, yet the person feels as if the medium knows something specific about him or her.
Despite general skepticism and criticisms of mediums, including Caputo, people must believe her. Why else would her Fort Wayne show sell out? Why is her TV show so popular?
It's an easy answer, really. Who doesn't want to make contact with a deceased loved one? Don't we all want the comfort of knowing that our most beloved family members and friends are OK? That they still love us? That in some supernatural way they do still exist?
Some people criticize Caputo, claiming she exploits that desire people have to contact their deceased loved ones. But if her readings give them comfort, who cares? If they want to believe, that's their choice.
Caputo's appearance probably doesn't do much to reassure her skeptics. She has bleached blonde hair teased into a huge bouffant hairdo. And her talons … er, claws, er, nails … are scary long and painted white.
Her appearance kind of makes her look fake. Then she opens her mouth, and a surprising thing happens. A pleasant, funny, warm personality emerges — at least on the YouTube videos.
She seems sincere, even though her tactics are suspicious. And obvious.
Whether she really hears from the dead, only Caputo knows. People can convince themselves of about anything. They can even convince themselves that a flashy lady from Long Island can communicate with their deceased spouse, sibling or dear friend.
And if that brings them peace, well, who are we to judge?