Theresa Caputo’s Got Spirit!

Courtesy Mills Entertainment
Courtesy Mills Entertainment

THE BIG HAIR. The nails. The accent. The rhinestone stilettos. And with the loud laughing and sometimes cursing, which somehow only makes her more endearing, Theresa Caputo typifies an Italian-American Long Islander. (I’m allowed to say this because I’m one, too, having moved here only last year.) She hails from Hicksville, a town that is about as typical middle-class Long Island as it gets.

But, of course, Caputo is anything but typical. She’s arguably today’s best-known medium, channeling “Spirit” (her preferred collective term for entities from the other side) on 14 seasons of TLC’s The Long Island Medium and now on her podcast Hey Spirit! and live shows around the country. Fangirl that I am, I jumped at the chance for an interview ahead of her stop at Clowes Memorial Hall.

For those who aren’t as familiar with you as I am, can you summarize what you do?
I have the ability to communicate with people who have died. It’s also important to say what I don’t do. I will never tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do with their life or ask for lotto numbers. I use my gift for healing. It’s not about predicting the future.

How did you wind up with this ability? It must have seriously freaked you out at the beginning.
I have no idea why I was chosen for this gift. I still wonder. I started seeing spirits at age 4 but didn’t really accept my gift and learn how to use it until my late 20s. And yes, in between, I suffered from debilitating anxiety. I grew up in a family with strong faith that was very spiritual. My mom took me to a spiritual healer named Pat Longo. She told me that I was suppressing Spirit’s energy, which was causing my anxiety. She helped me channel Spirit through my chakras and release it in words. I began to come into my own.  

At first you were just doing readings with friends and neighbors. How did you wind up on TV?
My friend Victoria Woods kept saying I was made for TV—ya think?—and that having a show was the best way to touch as many lives as possible. Victoria’s sister and a friend of hers were producers.

So how exactly do you get these messages? Do you hear them?
I get this question all the time, how I receive information. It’s hard to put into words. Spirit mostly speaks to me through a sixth sense, a kind of feeling and knowing. It feels like very strong intuition or remembering something. Spirit also uses symbols. Over time, I matched words, phrases, and meanings to the images I was shown. Through trial and error, Spirit helped me add new ones until we had a full vocabulary. It’s like piecing together a puzzle and can sometimes sound like guesswork, but Spirit speaks another language at another speed and in another dimension. I translate the symbols and my feelings as best I can and deliver a message. It’s the person’s job to interpret the significance. For example, Spirit might convey something that happened a long time ago that the person had forgotten about. Or it might refer to things that have happened since they died, to validate that they’re not missing out on their lives.

I went to a medium years ago who told me that my beloved grandma was “standing behind me” … and had nothing to say, apparently. But I did get enthusiastic and detailed messages from both the 20-year-old cousin of my then-husband and the father of my neighbor. Both had passed unexpectedly not long before my reading, but I wasn’t close to either one of them. Is there any rhyme or reason to who comes through?
Everyone’s experiences with mediums can be and are very different. If you’re not carrying a lot of burden or guilt connected to someone’s departure, Spirit might come through just to make an appearance, just to acknowledge that they know what’s going on in your life. While if you have someone who left the physical world in a tragic or unsettling way, I find in the work that I do [that] it’s those souls who push forward first. 

Undoubtedly at every show you have people who don’t believe in mediums and are dragged there by someone else. How do you handle the skeptics?
I totally get it, and I respect people who don’t understand what I do. But this isn’t about people believing in mediums. It’s about coming around to believing in an afterlife. Yes, there are a lot of common things that Spirit refers to, but that’s why I have Spirit validate [unique things] for the person—specifics that there’s no way I could ever know or have found out about. So the person is not so much believing in me as believing in themselves to recognize and accept the message. I want to give skeptics hope and peace.

Do you find differences in the Midwest in how open people are to you or how the readings unfold?
I enjoy seeing different cities and towns and visiting all the mom-and-pop places when I’m on tour. I love the hometown feels. I don’t really find it different channeling from state to state. As you know, nothing fazes New Yorkers. Think about it; I literally just walk up to people back home, and I’m like “Hey, did you lose your Mom?” and they’re just like, “OK, what does she have to say?” But if I do that in the Midwest, they might be a little taken aback.

Will you share a recent reading that really surprised you?
Honestly, I say this a lot, but they all take me by surprise because of the unique things that Spirit has me talk about. But this just happened last week in Regina, Canada. I was channeling this little boy who died tragically. He was talking to his aunt, his father’s sister, in the audience. The little boy kept talking about somebody wearing a necklace with his footprint on it, which is very unique … a footprint? All of a sudden, a woman came from the other side of the theater shouting, “That’s my son!” Now, apparently these two women had not spoken in some time. And the little boy said to his mom, “You were in the store, and you saw my aunt, but you turned the other way.” And the mom looked at me, and said, “Yes, I did.” Her sister-in-law was very taken aback and asked, “Why did you do that?” This family had been torn apart because of this young boy’s death. But the women hugged at the end of the reading. Those messages that night reunited a family, and that’s why I do what I do.

We recently had to put down an extremely loved cat, so my son wanted me to ask … do you ever hear from people’s cats or dogs?
Yes! I’ve channeled every type of pet. A soul is a soul, and a bond is a bond. To a lot of people, their pets are their children. The messages are usually short and sweet from a pet, but the healing is there. And by the way, you cannot believe how many people across the United States have pet squirrels.

What can we expect at your upcoming show here in Indy?
A night surrounded by faith, hope, and peace. I love doing live shows. First, I’ll come out onto the stage, and I’ll give a quick speech on what to expect over the next two hours. Then, once I start sensing Spirit, I’ll come off the stage, and Spirit will guide me around and have me stop in front of the people who should receive the healing messages. We have cameras that follow me around, so no matter where you’re seated, you can witness this up close. To watch this and to feel the positive healing energy in that space will be something remarkable.

Theresa Caputo Live! The Experience comes to Butler’s Clowes Memorial Hall on October 1.