Ask Dr. Eldritch

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Don't fall victim to vampires! Don't get slashed by a psycho! Don't get stuck, ASK DR. ELDRITCH!

Dear Dr. Eldritch,
Ask Dr. Eldritch Medium I am Madame Zorbina, a Medium for over twenty years, and now the dead are actually TALKING to me! It's freaking me out! Help!

I'll confess, I got into the business not because I actually had special powers, but because I graduated from college with a degree in 18th-Century French Literature (what was I thinking!?!). All of my classmates were waiting tables or working in a mall, but I found a library book on "cold reading" techniques for stage magicians, and figured I could do that. I quickly realized there was no market for "Karen the Medium," so I became "Madame Zorbina, the Channel for the Dearly Departed." I'm not getting rich; most of my clients are little old ladies who want to talk to their dead husbands. After twenty years, I've got the act down pat: Dim lights, sitar music, incense, a few probing questions followed by a "trance" where the dead person speaks through me, expressing their love and say they miss the living. Everybody thinks their situation is unique, but I've seen the same things so many times I can usually tell what it is they want to hear even before we start. Of course, if I'm not getting any hits, I "lose the connection," and tell them to come back next week.

So last Tuesday, this nice old lady wants to know her husband Maurie is in a better place. I had gotten to the part where I'm saying "Ellie? Is that you?" when I start hearing this male voice! He keeps saying "Under the closet! She has to look under the closet!" Well, I nearly fell out of my chair. I managed to keep in character, but the voice kept insisting, so I finally said "Look under the closet," and it shut up. Well, apparently Ellie went home and discovers that under a loose floorboard in the bedroom closet are thousands of dollars in cash! She gave me a hundred-dollar tip, and I was the hot topic at the Senior Center all week.

You'd think this turn of events would be great, but now I'm hearing voices ALL THE TIME. Some of them want me to give messages to relatives or complete unfinished business or avenge their deaths, but mostly they just want to tell me long, rambling stories about their lives, or complain about young people today. It's driving me CRAZY! How can I turn this off, before I truly go insane?

Desperately yours,

-- Karen (a.k.a. Madame Zorbina)

Dear Karen,

It's like the Old Farmer saying about how you can beat a dead horse to water until the cows come home, but when the chickens come back to roost, you have to lie in the bed you made (or something like that; I've never been a farmer). The point is, you've been pretending to talk to the dead, but you never considered what you'd do if they actually spoke back, did you? Of course not. Nobody ever does, so I will always have an audience for this column.

As you probably realized, virtually all Mediums are frauds, especially those who have their own television shows. Television is the perfect Medium medium (Ha! Just a bit of séance humor!), since everything can be tightly edited to show only the random guesses where the answer is "Yes." Sure that's cheating, but the purpose isn't to separate Truth from Fiction, but Dollars from the Credulous. As you've found, it's easy to deceive those who want to believe. Everybody thinks that they're too clever to be fooled, but the average person is as gullible as a country rube seeing the carnival side-show Mermaid Woman for the first time. Just as the bumpkins are fooled by the rubber suit, those who crave some sign that the afterlife holds more in store than mere oblivion are easily tricked into believing that the friendly psychic asking if anyone knows a deceased person whose name starts with "M" is getting messages from Beyond.

But I digress. You've somehow tuned your psychic radio to the Spirit Channel, and are receiving transmissions loud and clear. This is actually good news, although you will have to deal with the problem that you've found; the dead may talk profusely, but most have nothing interesting to say. Not coincidentally, there are many LIVING people like this. You may know some of them.

As you probably know, most people transition to the Great Beyond when they die. Others get stuck halfway, neither in this world nor the next. These unfortunates may have unfinished business (as you've been hearing), but not always. Think of their condition like being in a huge Otherworldly Retirement Home where the relatives never come to visit. When you pop up on the radar, it's as if you've walked into Purgatory's Day Room. A multitude of After-Death citizens clamor for your attention, even if it's just to tell you about the time they should have won the blue ribbon for the biggest rutabaga at the Boondock County Fair back in 1927.

Since being a Medium is your job, you need to keep this at a business level. Let the Dead know they need to offer something in exchange for your attention. For example, the location of more hidden treasure would earn them lots of time to ramble about the Good Old Days. Be certain that no living person has a valid claim on the riches, and remember that blackmail material and bank-vault combinations may be tempting, but will only lead to disaster. You may have to listen to endless hours of rutabaga stories, but you'll at least be getting some reward. Eventually you'll probably be drawn into some situation of great personal risk and only resolved by using your unique talents, but that's normal. And it will give you a good story to tell a future Medium years from now, after you've shuffled off this mortal coil.

Good luck, and let me know how it comes out!

-- Dr. Eldritch

(DISCLAIMER: Anyone intelligent enough to be reading this should understand 1) Satire, and 2) That following the advice given may result in physical, mental, or spiritual harm to beings living, dead, or undead. The author does not suggest that anyone other that the originator of any given letter follow his advice, and cannot be held liable if anyone else does.
If you need more, read this Advanced Disclaimer!) All content © 2006 Evan M. Nichols