Theresa Caputo - Medium Rare

While I was in NYC last week for the B&C Hall of Fame gala , I had the opportunity to have lunch with Theresa Caputo, star of TLC’s reality series Long Island Medium, which the network just announced Tuesday was renewed for a second season.

Caputo is a psychic-medium who has the ability to communicate with the dead. I will admit I am a fan of the show and from what I have seen on television, she seemed like the real deal. So, I was looking forward to meeting her in person to see what she was all about.

True to her persona on TV, Caputo walked in with her bleach blonde hair, long manicured nails, Christian Louboutin pumps and signature Long Island accent — the complete antithesis of what you’d imagine someone who dabbles in the world of spirit would look and act like. And for someone who can talk with the dead, she is extremely down to earth.

“I really believe that this [gift] has nothing to do with me,” she said. “People thank me and I’m like you know what, don’t thank me, thank them. They did it. I am just crazy enough to say whatever they want me to say to you.”

Caputo didn’t always work professionally as a medium. She was an inventory controller for an oil company, where she met her husband, and then worked for her husband’s business while being a housewife and a mom.

She always knew she was different, explaining that she would see things that ordinary people wouldn’t see. Eventually, she accepted and developed her gift, becoming a practicing medium nearly 10 years ago. She says her clientele had always been strictly word-of-mouth before the show (she is currently booked for readings through January 2013 and has a growing waiting list) and that early on she didn’t want to publicize her talents.

“It’s only been the past four years where I actually tell people what it is that I do,” she said. “People judge you.”

She attributes some of her confidence to “coming out as medium” to another medium from Long Island - John Edward, who had his own television shows Crossing Over with John Edward (1999-2004) and John Edward Cross Country (2006-08).

“He was such an inspiration for me. It would hurt when people would say he is not real. How do you know? Even if you don’t believe, to these people he is reading, it means something.”

When asked if she too would like a talk show-style series like Edward one day, she said, “You never know. I might go that route.”

As seen in her reality show, Caputo is known for approaching random people in any setting when spirit presents itself to her with a message - a tactic which could elicit varying reactions. But, she says she has never had a negative experience approaching total strangers.

“Why shouldn’t someone have that opportunity [to communicate with a loved one?]”

And I had such an opportunity. About 20 minutes into our lunch, my grandparents and my mother, who recently passed away, stepped forward, and Caputo had no hesitation about letting me know. Some of the details she revealed relating to my mom and family were so personal and specific she could never have known about them. It’s one thing to see it on her reality show, but quite another to experience it firsthand. As a journalist, I am skeptical by nature, but had to admit, I was transformed into a believer.

But, Caputo isn’t bothered by those who don’t believe. She welcomes skeptics and calls on spirit to provide her with the specific details to help validate their existence. “People pick apart things they don’t understand. So, I want them [the spirits] to reveal things that you wouldn’t expect, so the client says ‘how would she know that’?”

One thing she can’t stand is people accusing her of Googling. “What am I going to Google? And even if I did, where would I find some of the specific things I am telling you?” Caputo even showed me her appointment list on her iPhone where only a first name and phone number are listed.

Aside from making contact with the spirits of ordinary people who have passed, Caputo also has had her fair share of dead celebrity sightings, including Jerry Garcia, Sonny Bono, The Notorious B.I.G. and Michael Jackson.

While ghosts clearly don’t scare Caputo, she admits that she is terrified of elevators. However, she is completely comfortable on planes, where according to her, spirit flies the friendly skies.

“Spirit has no boundaries. On my way home from a visit to LA, I ended up reading all the flight attendants.”

While Caputo considers her abilities a gift, she believes it’s something anyone could cultivate.

“Our loved ones who have passed are made of energy. We’re made of energy. That’s a bond you can’t break,” she said. She suggests practicing meditation, because to connect with spirit “you have to quiet the mind.”

Which is ironic, because it’s hard to imagine Caputo, typically a bundle of energy, ever having a quiet moment.