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A Q&A with a medium from Cassadaga

By Mary Thurwachter
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 28, 2006

Joan Piper, a certified medium, speaker and teacher at Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, left a 20-year elementary school teaching career in Massachusetts to learn more about Spiritualism. As part of her her work at Cassadaga, Piper conducts séances.

During a phone conversation after attending a séance. I asked her the following:

Question:
How old were you when you first realized you had a gift for communicating with spirits who have passed over?
Answer: Between ages 5 and 6 when my grandfather died. I didn't want to go to the funeral to say goodbye. Why say goodbye, I asked my parents, when he comes to visit me all the time?

Q.
Does your grandfather still visit you?
A. Yes, and when he does it's as the same beautiful grandfather I loved. He usually comes when I really want that big hug and to hear him say "Oh Joan, I just love you."

Q.
What brought you to Cassadaga?
A. I came (from Massachusetts) on a family vacation in the mid 1990s. Someone told me I had to come here. It was a rainy Tuesday. I had my first reading and was told (by a medium) I'd be back in four months — and I was. I completed classes here in three years and four months. I loved every ounce of it. I also studied in Europe.

Q.
Do you watch the show Medium? What do you think of it?
A. Yes. It puts a normal twist on it (the life of a medium). You have to function in everyday life. When you're looking for answers (as Patricia Arquette's character Allison is), you get information from different sources. You have to decipher, put parts of the puzzle together.

Q.
When did you attend your first séance and what was it like?
A. It was here at Cassadaga in the 1990s. It was excellent. The table was tipping to the tune of my father's favorite song On the Street Where You Live. It was awesome, a real connection.

Q.
During a séance, can you actually see the spirits attending?
A. Yes. Sometimes they stand right behind the person (attending the séance) and sometimes not.

Q.
What do they look like?
A. Spirits usually appear in the state they were most happy on earth. (Her father, for example, had to have both his legs amputated, but his spirit comes to her dancing.)

Q.
What makes the table move, or causes the raps during a séance?
A. Energy — from the spirit world and from you (the participants). I couldn't move it like that by myself. We've used different tables and they're usually heavy wood dining tables. Sometimes the table elevates, sometimes it rocks and rolls. Once it tipped totally on its side.

Q.
When is a séance preferable to a personal reading with a medium?
A. A reading is more personal for specific questions. It's a whole different ball game. When I'm doing a reading, I go to the spirits first. Ninety-nine percent of the time the spirit directs me to the questions. (During a séance, participants' questions are limited to those with yes or no answers).

Q.
Is everybody psychic?
A. I think so. How many times do you hear people talk about intuition or gut feelings? Whether you listen to it or not is up to you.

Q.
How do you feel after giving a reading?
A. If I use only psychic energy, it's draining. When you get into spirit realm, there is an endless amount of energy. You keep getting questions, they keep getting information. I don't feel like there are enough English words to describe the high feeling you get when you do a reading (with the help of the spirits).

Q.
Can mediums give people helpful answers?
A. They can share information, they can tell you options, but it's up to you to decide to do something or not.
I believe in Infinite Intelligence. There is always a way of doing something. The answer is there and there are an infinite amount of ways of getting where you want to go. You get to be the creative one to pick the one that works for you, that's what is so grand. We limit ourselves and there is no limit. You can learn anything if you open yourself to it.

Q.
What do you think people who come to you as a medium or in a séance want?
A. To be reunited with a loved one who has passed. To find peace and closure. . . . A lot of people are looking for encouragement.

Q.
To attend a séance, do you have to be a believer?
A. I would say come with an open heart and an open mind. Skepticism is OK as long as you're not belligerent or hurtful.

Q.
How would you advise someone to find the best medium to consult with at Cassadaga?
A. Go the Welcome Center. All the mediums available for readings are listed there. You'll be drawn to the right one, it's like an electric cord. If you want to book ahead of time, we all have business cards there.