Van Praagh, James (ca. 1960– )
James Van Praagh, a Spiritualist medium and author of two
best-selling books on his experiences with psychic reality, was
born into a Catholic family in Bayside, New York, around 1960.
As a youth he attended Sacred Heart School. Responding to his
mother’s wish that he become a priest, he entered a junior seminary,
Eymard Preparatory School in Hyde Park, New York. He
stayed only one year, having concluded that neither the priesthood
nor the Roman Catholic Church were for him. He completed
his high school years in a public school.
As a child, Van Praagh had a variety of psychic experiences.
One in particular stood out. At the age of eight, he had a vision
of a giant hand above his bed one evening. He interpreted it
as the Hand of God and from that time forward his belief in
God never wavered. Also, on the first anniversary of singer
Janis Joplin’s death he tried to contact her. Sitting before a candle,
he called her spirit to manifest and immediately afterward
the flame bent in a most unusual manner.
In 1978 Van Praagh left New York to attend San Francisco
State University, where he majored in broadcasting. He hoped
for a career in Hollywood as a screenwriter. Following his graduation
in 1982, he moved to Los Angeles and took a menial job
as he began working his way up. A colleague at his workplace
invited him to visit Spiritualist medium Brian Hurst, who told
him that one day he would also be a medium. He was intrigued
enough with the prediction that he began to pick up books on
psychic development and find ways to hone his skills. Within a
year he was regularly receiving calls from friends and acquaintances
asking him for advice.
Within a short time, he was spending so much of his time
doing readings for people who valued his talents that he was
forced to make a choice to either drop his spiritual work or his
Van Peursen, C(ornelis) A(nthonie) Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
plans for a Hollywood career. He chose to continue with his
spirit contact and soon emerged as a Spiritualist medium. Over
the years he gave private readings, conducted many development
classes, and traveled frequently. He founded Spiritual
Horizons in Los Angeles to coordinate his activities.
In 1997, Van Praagh took a step upward with the publication
of his first book, Talking to Heaven. The book became a
best-seller and he became a public personality as a result of the
subsequent radio and television appearances. It was followed by
a sequel, Reaching to Heaven (1999), which also became a bestseller.
Both books recount some of his more successful experiences
of spirit contact, discuss the view of the universe they suggest,
and offer means for individuals to develop their own
clairvoyance and mediumistic abilities.
Van Praagh, James. Reaching to Heaven A Spiritual Journey
through Life and Death. New York E. P. Dutton, 1999.
———. Talking to Heaven A Medium’s Message on Life After
Death. New York E. P. Dutton, 1997.