John Edward has been speaking with the dead as a psychic medium for nearly three decades.
And yes, he's well aware that some people consider the idea that he can connect with the spirits of the deceased to be misguided at best and fraudulent at worst.
"I don't want to tell somebody what to think," he says. "I want to inspire them to go find out what they think."
Over the phone, Edward comes off as an earnest, compassionate and sometimes humorous man who just wants to help people. The growing acceptance of psychic and paranormal phenomena in mainstream culture since his television show "Crossing Over With John Edward" started in 1999 has not been a blessing, he says; in fact, it's been something of a curse as more psychics, whether real or fake, get into the profession.
"I feel, to be brutally honest, that a lot of people are not coming from the right place," he says. "I feel like 'Crossing Over' widened the road, and there are a lot of unlicensed drivers."
For Edward, being a psychic medium is about making personal connections with people. It's the serious business of helping them heal.
"To me, this is like emotional, mental, spiritual heart surgery," he says. "You don't want just anybody operating on your loved ones."
How it started: The vocation came calling when Edward was 15 years old.
"My mom used to have psychics come to the house all the time, and I was the sophomore in high school who would debunk all these people," he says.
And then came psychic Lydia Clar, with a single condition: that she be allowed to meet with Edward.
"I was like, 'Why does this freaky woman want to meet me?' ... I wanted to prove to my family that she would not be able to read me," he says. "That one reading kind of changed my life."
Six months later, Edward began giving psychic readings himself, at first for relatives and then expanding by word of mouth.
"Within a year, I had a waiting list," he says.
Despite the demand, Edward continued to travel the path toward the standard societal conception of responsible adulthood for about a decade, going to college and working as a phlebotomist. Making "psychic medium" a full-time profession was a decision he wrestled with.
But "when you find your passion and your purpose, you don't question it," he says. "I know that this is what I'm supposed to be doing ... and I think once I abandoned that world in 1995, I never looked back again."
Looking ahead: Edward is once again looking ahead to new territory, with the television shows that brought him to national prominence part of his past now and a new interactive online venture part of his future. His energy is directed toward his live events and "The Five," an online community offering exclusive access to monthly online events, sneak peeks at Edward's writing and opportunities for personal readings.
"I'm trying to provide people access as best as I possibly can," he says. "I'm having a blast; I absolutely love it."
At his live event June 28 at the Strand-Capitol, Edward's process will be familiar to those who have seen him on television. After talking a bit about what he does and how it works, he'll open the floor to questions from the audience.
"And then I'll try to read for as many people as I possibly can," he says.
Being in the audience doesn't guarantee a personal reading, but Edward expresses hope that everyone will come away from the event with something valuable.
"I think the event is for the people who are not read," he says, because it opens them to new thoughts. "Every experience is for them, and that's how a true healing can begin."
And even if audience members don't believe, that's OK with Edward, so long as they're willing to consider the possibility.
"I actually appreciate the skeptics because they bring up a higher caliber of thought," he says. "I've been doing this now for about 28 years, and my role is to get people to raise awareness in their lives."
It helps, too, to have a sense of greater meaning and purpose in one's calling.
"I really have a philosophy that the people who are supposed to find me will find me," Edward says.
-- Reach entertainment editor Mel Barber at mbarber@yorkdis patch.com.
Psychic medium John Edward will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28, at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, 50 N. George St., York.
Tickets are $69-$89.
For more information, call 846-1111 or visit www.strandcapitol.org.
To learn more about Edward, visit johnedward.net.