As Florence tells Steve about her brothers, Steve can hear a loud voice inside his head, insisting that Florence has another brother she is not mentioning. "Do you have one more?" he asks. "I am hearing that you have one more."
"No, I don't," she insists. "There is Dave in Idaho, there's another in New Jersey. . . ." As she continues the list, Steve hears the voice again, and somehow he knows that the unmentioned brother died a few weeks after being born. He wants to be counted, too. Steve tells her this. Florence turns sheet-white. "My mother lost a baby when he was three weeks old. The family never told anyone." She looks faint.
Turning people sheet-white is something Steve Osborn is used to. He is a medium, which means that, like that corny line from the movie, he sees dead people. "I have been dealing with the dead since I was four," Osborn explains matter-of-factly. "I had an imaginary playmate that wasn't so imaginary." Osborn hosts Ghosts 101, an interactive event for people to become more educated about the paranormal and learn how to photograph, find and avoid ghosts on Aug. 29. All the proceeds go to the Food for Thought Food Bank to fund and service those living with AIDS and HIV.
A nurse for 30 years, working in a place where people die, Osborn was continuously in contact with the dead. "When we die, we do not turn into a box of worms—our energy moves on," he says. He has volunteered for the food bank for 11 years and has done readings for almost all his co-workers. "People come for readings, they find me. The dead show up," he shrugs. Through his experience and on-target descriptions of deceased loved ones, Osborn has gained a solid reputation.
Osborn wants to share what he has learned over the years, as he thinks that what most of us think we know about the other side is sheer misinformation. "Ninety percent of the information out there is wrong or stretched—and about 50 percent of psychics are fake," he charges. Osborn emphasizes that he is not here to convince anyone of the existence of ghosts, but acknowledges the increased interest in the paranormal. "There has been a rise in interest in the spiritual realm," he explains. "Especially as baby boomers, who grew up without a spiritual background, start to face their own mortality and look for something greater."
On the other hand, those who grew up with a religious background often are taught it is bad to believe in ghosts and life after death. But they are still curious. "People want proof," Osborn says, "and when relatives 'come across,' they have their proof. None of it collides with people's beliefs; it only collides with those hell-bent on not believing."
Such television shows as Ghost Hunters, Most Haunted and Ghost Adventures have peaked public interest in the paranormal. Osborn dismisses such shows as misleading. "When ghost hunting, people don't often know what they are dealing with," he says. "It is not a sport. Many of the spirits do not know they are dead. Ghost hunting might sound fun, but it is not always fun for them."
According to Osborn, there are two types of ghosts. Earthbound spirits are those that stay on this side and can cause problems. Ghost-imprint spirits are imprinted on a place, such as a Civil War battle site, and can never leave. It's a kind of limbo in situ. Osborn cites an old Cathedral in Europe where a spirit continuously walks the same path as an example of an imprinted spirit. When the building was remodeled, the floor was raised and now the ghost can only be seen from the waist up.
Do dead people watch us shower, are they in the bedroom with us when we make love? Osborn says that the answer is yes, but they do not care. Can the spirit world give us financial advice? No, not really, since they do not care about money. Our deceased relatives often care about our happiness and our well-being, but not our worldly woes.
Allen Chivens, owner of Food for Thought's Antique and Collectibles, the store hosting the event, stresses that this is "not a 'Casper the family ghost' night, but rather is for people to become more educated about the paranormal."
The workshop developed organically. "A lot of the merchandise in the store comes from estates," Chivens says. "There is a thread of history in each item you can't help but wonder about. It is full of mystery."
The antique store even has a few ghosts of its own.
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One volunteer has seen a small child roaming downstairs and upstairs. There have also been sightings of an older gentleman spirit, who Osborn says used to be an owner of the building. If a volunteer stays later than closing, the ghost tends to get irritated and will throw books on the ground. Although Osborn has not had this same experience, this particular spirit does not care for Osborn being there and will "shush" him when he speaks.
For the workshop, Osborn hopes that people will bring cameras or phones with cameras. After a ghostly interactive discussion, Osborn will take attendees upstairs to where the former owner resides to hopefully capture orbs in the photographs.
"The dead often give us clues, but we just don't always want to hear," Osborn says. The workshop helps to educate about the paranormal which helps to diffuse the fear that often surrounds ghosts. "Usually, when I get a little voice in my head, it is a mother who wants her children to know she loves them," Osborn says. "I feel what they feel, and often their messages are full of love."
Ghosts 101 is slated for Saturday, Aug. 29, at Food for Thought Antiques and Collectibles. 2701 Gravenstein Hwy. S., Sebastopol. 6pm. $15. 707.823.3101.
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