Van Praagh, James (ca. 1960-)
Van Praagh, James (ca. 1960-)
James Van Praagh, a Spiritualist medium and author of two best-selling books on his experiences with psychic reality, was born into a Catholic family in Bayside, New York, around 1960. As a youth he attended Sacred Heart School. Responding to his mother's wish that he become a priest, he entered a junior seminary, Eymard Preparatory School in Hyde Park, New York. He stayed only one year, having concluded that neither the priest-hood nor the Roman Catholic Church were for him. He completed his high school years in a public school.
As a child, Van Praagh had a variety of psychic experiences. One in particular stood out. At the age of eight, he had a vision of a giant hand above his bed one evening. He interpreted it as the Hand of God and from that time forward his belief in God never wavered. Also, on the first anniversary of singer Janis Joplin's death he tried to contact her. Sitting before a candle, he called her spirit to manifest and immediately afterward the flame bent in a most unusual manner.
In 1978 Van Praagh left New York to attend San Francisco State University, where he majored in broadcasting. He hoped for a career in Hollywood as a screenwriter. Following his graduation in 1982, he moved to Los Angeles and took a menial job as he began working his way up. A colleague at his workplace invited him to visit Spiritualist medium Brian Hurst, who told him that one day he would also be a medium. He was intrigued enough with the prediction that he began to pick up books on psychic development and find ways to hone his skills. Within a year he was regularly receiving calls from friends and acquaintances asking him for advice.
Within a short time, he was spending so much of his time doing readings for people who valued his talents that he was forced to make a choice to either drop his spiritual work or his plans for a Hollywood career. He chose to continue with his spirit contact and soon emerged as a Spiritualist medium. Over the years he gave private readings, conducted many development classes, and traveled frequently. He founded Spiritual Horizons in Los Angeles to coordinate his activities.
In 1997, Van Praagh took a step upward with the publication of his first book, Talking to Heaven. The book became a best-seller and he became a public personality as a result of the subsequent radio and television appearances. It was followed by a sequel, Reaching to Heaven (1999), which also became a bestseller. Both books recount some of his more successful experiences of spirit contact, discuss the view of the universe they suggest, and offer means for individuals to develop their own clairvoyance and mediumistic abilities.
Van Praagh, James. Reaching to Heaven: A Spiritual Journey through Life and Death. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1999.
——. Talking to Heaven: A Medium's Message on Life After Death. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1997.