Beyond and Back 

Contacting the Dead Is Not What You Think -- It’s About Healing, Not Halloween.

Deloris Beynon has seen spirits all her life. She’s predicted family illnesses and dreamed about future events. And she’s been doing it since before she was 8 years old. But the 49-year-old psychic has only been a practicing medium for five years.

A reading of one to three hours with Deloris costs $100 and is recorded on tape. Clients visit her for a variety of reasons, ranging from bereft mourners seeking closure to a relative’s death to healing emotional traumas and even exploring past lives. “Sometimes they seek an understanding of why the person died and what happened to them,” Deloris says. “In a way, it’s like a criminal investigation. Their interests are as individual as their fingerprints.”

Many have come to her grieving the loss of young children. A personalized reading includes channeling the spirit of the deceased child. Deloris explains that all humans have adult souls. “Earth is our learning experience, and children who die have learned what they came here to learn.”

Pretty with gray hair and piercing brown eyes, Deloris welcomes clients into her living room that’s decorated in pastoral lavenders, blues and pinks. Paintings of angels fill the walls. Raised a Utah Mormon, she is now affiliated with Teachings of the Inner Christ. She calls herself a “spiritual medium,” and says she works through God. “This is my earth calling—what I came here to do,” she explains. “My service is to help people facilitate closing, so that they can go on with their lives.”

Seated in an overstuffed rose-colored chair, Deloris drapes her lap with an angel-emblazoned blanket. With outstretched hands, she begins each reading with a prayer to welcome the spirits. As she channels, Deloris’ head occasionally jerks to the side. She inhales deep breaths between recitations. Her voice is her own, but she sometimes pauses intermittently to converse with the spirits during sessions with a client.

People tell her that she knows facts she would have no other way of knowing. “Lots of times they are in awe. They hug me and thank me,” she says with pride.

But it isn’t always comforting. “Sometimes I scare people. One man couldn’t believe how much I knew about his dad—that he smoked Lucky Strike cigarettes and worked in a carpentry shop.” She could tell her client was spooked. “He said he’d come back to get his tape and he never did.”

When someone makes an appointment, she writes down only a first name, and says she doesn’t remember detailed information once the reading is over. While channeling, she asks questions that are more likely to confirm what she suspects rather than to solicit answers from the client. She’ll ask “Do you have a dog?” or “Do you have a piano?” and receive a “yes” answer, rather than the less specific, “Do you have a pet?” or “Do you play an instrument?”

She can sense and is frustrated by people who come to test her or prove she’s a fake. “They ask questions about things they already know the answer to—like what someone was wearing when they died, or what present they got for their last Christmas.” Such questions have nothing to do with healing, she explains, and even the spirits will stop communicating if motives are suspect. “When people come here with cheating energy, they are the ones who will be cheated out of a good reading. I’m not here to prove myself to anyone—my work is the proof of who I am and what I do.”

In the beginning, Deloris emerged tired following readings and would go directly to bed. “The word is ‘medium’ because you are between heaven and earth. When I do a reading, my body is present and so is my mind, but it’s in another dimension. After I finish, I can’t drive for a while.”

Not everyone believes in life after death, or that spirits are accessible to send messages to humans. “I would think that mediums who are helping people to contact dead relatives are taking advantage of people’s superstitions and making money,” says Chris Allen, director of Utah Atheists and state director of American Atheists. “The very idea that you even have a life after death is bogus and just wishful thinking. The idea that we don’t die and actually go to heaven and join with our relatives may sound attractive, but it can be used to our disadvantage to cost us our money.”

Rev. Tom Goldsmith of the First Unitarian Church looks at it another way. “We have a whole congregation full of skeptics, but the truth is, when it comes to death, nobody is an expert. All the experts are dead, and they haven’t come back. Since nobody is an expert, that leaves us all vulnerable to figuring out what is on the other side.” He says reaching out to spirits may not be impossible. “I’m not going to put it past the realm of possibility that mediums can get in touch with the spirits of the dead. I harbor my doubts, but I leave the door of possibility narrowly open.”

Goldsmith teaches a theology course at the Unitarian Church that discusses a unit on immortality. “The Unitarians all have an interesting point of view. None of them have that traditional blueprint that there is an ‘up there’ and a ‘down here,’ but there is a sense of something that lingers in some metaphoric, poetic sense that is immortal. If you don’t believe in the Pearly Gates of Heaven and St. Peter holding his slate to admit you, it doesn’t mean you don’t believe in an afterlife.”

Like Deloris, Murray medium Karen Baldwin says her psychic abilities increased after a near-death, out-of-body experience. Formerly a truck driver, Karen was mixing industrial chemicals in a bucket when residue from a previous mixture combined with the new ingredients and ignited. Screaming and inhaling flames, Karen recalls rising into the air above her own body and didn’t recognize herself lying on the floor. Today, an oxygen tank supplements her 19 percent lung capacity, yet, she says, her psychic instincts are fully operational 24 hours a day.

After recovering from the accident, it was two-and-a-half years before she understood the change in herself. Though her down-home charm, pixie-like grin and traces of Oklahoma accent remained the same, she says her psychic insight was dramatically enhanced. “My whole clock ticks different now. I’d have to say I didn’t believe in people like me,” she says. “I didn’t believe in metaphysics, and never studied anything but the Bible.”

She began to have perceptions about people she’d never met before. She recalls one such incident standing in a store next to a woman. “I picked up on her feeling that she was very sad about her husband, who was a heavy drinker.” Words started coming out of her mouth. “I told the woman her husband wouldn’t be home—that he’d be drunk at so-and-so’s house. She wanted to know how the heck I knew so much about her husband.”

Karen meets with clients in her “angel room,” which is filled with 300 ceramic angels along with a picture of Christ her father gave her and a cross she received from her mother. There are also photos of children who have died with whom she has communicated. From across the country, people mail her the belongings of missing children, wrapped in plastic to await her touch. She says she’s found missing husbands and wives, as well as lost car keys, wallets and rings.

Still, her greatest challenge is seeing as many clients as possible while considering her health limitations. “By the end of the day, I’m drug out—but I’ve saved a few lives.” For example, she recalls detecting cancer in one woman. “When we had our session, I told her something would be removed from her body in 180 days. It turned out to be a large, metastasized tumor.”

Karen has photos of herself outlined by mysterious lights, and says she’s “messed up” electrical currents and hospital X-rays. “I was giving a talk at a seminar and that big old chandelier dimmed four times, but I looked like a glowworm.” Her informal language puts people at ease. “I’m not into glitz and glamour, but I’ve been blessed with the use of Maybelline,” she says. “I ain’t going Hollywood—ain’t into money.” However, she is writing a book about her unusual life and psychic abilities.

Karen says that while most mediums just talk to the deceased, she sees, feels, tastes and sometimes relives what they experienced. “Most people who come to me want peace. Some want to know why their loved ones died and if they can still see people on Earth.”

One woman told her that when she thought of her late husband, her telephone rang and the caller ID said 9999999. “I told her, go over and answer it. You’ve got one heck of a long distance phone call coming in.”

Why do people typically wish to contact someone who has died? Kym Couture, a psychotherapist with Hospice of Utah, explains that when someone loses a loved one, he faces his own death right up front. “There is a mystery of why we are here and they are there. We feel it’s impossible that they are gone.” Within such grief comes a longing for connection. “We think that if we can just validate that our loved one is OK, we would be OK, too,” she explains.

One reason behind this need for validation is a culture that doesn’t offer enough social support for grief, she notes. Grief lasts much longer than people realize. “We don’t talk to people about their grief, which leaves them isolated.” Couture keeps that in mind when working with bereaved people. “If you have an operation, the doctor will say, ‘Take it easy. Don’t go running off and do a lot.’ Emotional pain can be just as debilitating, yet we try to distract grieving people and expect them to do more to get away from their grief. The person who died is still real in the griever’s heart and mind, and the person is still thinking about them. Our culture doesn’t provide for a way to process that loss.”

Couture herself has seen the power in feeling a sense of connection with a loved one who has passed on. She and her husband referred to a musical composition—Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”—as his daughter Beth’s song. But they hadn’t told Beth that fact. “The organist played it twice by chance at her wedding. My husband and I loved the music, and we listened to it for a year, calling it Beth’s song.”

After Couture’s husband died, Beth was in a Target store in Florida. “She was using a machine where you push a button and hear the music. She found that when she played a particular song it made her cry, and she couldn’t figure out why this was happening,” Couture relates. Beth called Couture in Salt Lake seeking an explanation of why she was feeling such emotion. Couture remembers that Beth said, “For some reason, when I play this song, I think about Dad and it makes me cry. Do you know why that would be?”

As soon as she heard the familiar “Canon in D,” Couture burst into tears. “It was one of those moments of complete overwhelming joy in that a connection was made,” Couture says. “Nothing feels more permanent than death, and when synchronistically there is a connection, it brings a lot of comfort.”

Within her hospice work, Couture is astonished by the number of experiences that provide a sense of well-being through feelings of connection. Some people chalk up such connections up to coincidence, she says, while others look at them in a spiritual way and share them with few people. “When those pieces of comfort come, it is really overpowering and it is felt on many different levels. Because they often can’t describe the experience, it is held privately by the person and not discussed.”

While those who receive them do not actively seek the experiences, a hope for such connection may be the motivation for contacting a medium, Couture says. “The feeling of connection is healing in and of itself. For some people, contact would relate to finishing up, others would have questions about their own mortality to deal with, and others would have issues with the person they lost.” Seeking a medium would not be a “daring, Halloween-connected scary experience,” she adds, but rather a search for healing.

Bill hosts what he calls “sittings” in his spacious home nestled against the Wasatch Mountains in an upscale neighborhood overlooking Salt Lake City. The intense hue of Bill’s sky-blue eyes is echoed in both his turquoise golf shirt and the powder-blue carpeting in his airy living room. These calm surroundings are often where he helps bereaved people seek healing after a loss through death. Word of mouth leads people from across the country to seek him out. “I screen out a lot of people in favor of those in need of true healing. At times, I’ve been told I was a last hope and they planned to commit suicide … and that the healing is all of what I said it would be.”

Bill requested his last name be withheld, because he was fired once after an employer learned of his work as a medium. He became aware of his gift for communication with the dead as a child. He recalls a day in third grade in Catholic school when his classmates heard two sirens as an ambulance went by. “A nun told us to pray for the people who had died,” Bill recalls. He responded by announcing that just one person had died, but that he didn’t need their prayers. “He wants us to know he is with Jesus and he is happy,” Bill remembers saying. “The nun looked at me like I was out of the ballpark. The next day she brought in an article that said John McHale died at 11:32 a.m.”

Since moving to Utah from California in 1989, he’s held 327 sittings. “Each is memorable and special. Every experience from the other side has been what the person needed, though not necessarily what they wanted.” Bill says the most important thing for people to realize is that spirit world communications are there for them. “They can be more receptive to them if they live a life where they can balance their earthly and spiritual priorities.”

He recalls one session when he was not successful, with a woman from Arizona. “She was one of the few cases where I was not able to contact the person she wanted, but was able to tell her about aspects of her personal life that were destructive to her spiritually. She stepped on people in her life to get money, fame and riches. The person she lost was the source of these riches. She was angry that the person was gone, but not apologetic.”

Bill begins each sitting at 10 a.m. “I have to gear myself up with meditation, proper sleep and quiet.” He also requires that the person seeking his help sleeps well the night before and makes no other plans for at least five hours after the sitting begins. Cell phones and watches are left in another room and turned off. “They need to set aside the time and lose their anxieties so that their total energies may be devoted to the healing.” Sittings last from one to four hours. Bill only holds one sitting a day. His schedule may range from no readings in six months to two a week.

Unusual occurrences are not out of the question. People have brought new cassette tapes to sittings, later to hear voices other than his on the tapes. Spirits have also “taken the latent energy on TV and produced an image,” he explains, adding he once saw a similar type of image of his fiancée who died. “Every session is heavy duty,” Bill says, though suicides are always the hardest sittings. “One woman broke out screaming and crying when her husband said that after he pulled the trigger, he didn’t want to die.”

Salt Lake realtor Joan Pate was devastated when her 13-year-old son died. She says Bill knew facts about her family and her son that would be hard for him to know without knowing the family. “There was definitely some kind of contact with my son,” Pate says. “For me, it was enlightening, comforting and informative. “

Deanna Ferdig knows how Pate felt. “I was looking for some answers to my brother’s disappearance when I came in contact with Deloris Beynon,” Ferdig says. “She was able to tell me what happened to him and describe the location where his body could be found.” Three months later, her brother’s body was found in a location that fit Deloris’ description, Ferdig says. It had been three years since his disappearance. “She knew things about him that only our family knew. I believe she was sent to me by my brother to help answer questions I had been dealing with for three years.”

Recently when a young woman began to talk to her, Karen Baldwin felt a presence. “I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder. A voice said, ‘Tell her that I love her and I’m very proud of her and I’m mom,’” Karen recalls. “The lady’s eyes flooded up, and she said thank you.”

Deloris, Karen and Bill believe they satisfy spiritual longings on a regular basis. Their information often arrives in the form of symbolic images or sensory details. Bill says he gave one man a message that said he was to swim in the river behind his place of business to cool off. “He said, ‘Why did you tell me this? I hate swimming.’” He says the man later came to understand that the message meant he should cool his anger regarding business dealings.

During readings, Deloris sees mental pictures of the people her clients wish to contact. “Sometimes they come to me in God’s desired perfect condition [the prime of their youth], or other times I see what they looked like when they died or where they are in their progression of healing.” She once saw the image of a man with a leather mask pulled tight across his face. “He had created this tight mask around his head and had to stay in his own mind,” Deloris says. In subsequent sessions, she watched the man heal himself, go beyond the mask and be able to connect with others. “Then I no longer saw the image of a mask when I read for him.”

Once a woman asked Karen if she knew anything about her son-in-law. Although the questioner did not imply that the man had died, Karen says she saw balloons floating in the sky. She realized that the young man had committed suicide and was releasing a balloon as a way of asking for his family’s forgiveness.

Bill compares the symbolic images mediums receive to the parables Jesus Christ used to relay his teachings. Mediums believe not only that there is an afterlife, but also that they can talk to people who are there now. What is the significance of being able to talk to the dead? “I know that death isn’t death,” Bill says. “We are constantly conscious and the state of death is kind of like a pure dream state, or an out-of-body experience.”

Karen agrees. “It’s a definite statement that life goes on.”

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