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Making a Connection
Whether looking for a glimpse into the future or seeking comfort after the loss of a loved one, more people are finding solace in psychic mediums. And while some claim to have witnessed the gift, plenty of skepticism remains.

by Julie Shannon

After losing her husband and father within eight months of each other, Judith Bronston felt isolated. She joined a support group which helped to a degree, but she needed more to help fill the void. “I felt disconnected and needed some connection [to them] to comfort me,” she recalls. “Many people from the support group went to see a psychic, so I thought I had to do it.”

However, when the Voorhees resident signed up for a private session with Woodbury-based psychic medium Kym Durham, there was a six-month waitlist.

Bronston is one of many in the South Jersey area and across the country who have met with psychics and mediums to make some sort of connection with loved ones who passed away. With reality television shows like Long Island Medium and Hollywood Medium enjoying popularity, more people are looking to not only reconnect with a loved one, but to also seek general advice about their relationships, friendships, their job situation and the overall direction their life is headed.

When Bronston was able to meet with Durham this past July, she was surprised at how much correct information was relayed during their session—especially since she was relaying personal things no one could have known.

“She went through several people from my past who have passed away, and the thing that was just remarkable was she brought up my aunt who was a nun in a convent who passed away,” Bronston recalls. “She told me my aunt was proud of me and how I take care of my mother, and then said my aunt wanted to thank me for all the times I brought port wine for the nuns. She brought up not just wine, but the specific kind I purchased.”

When the spirit of Bronston’s husband came into the room, she was blown away at some of the things Durham mentioned. “She actually sang a Zac Brown [Band] song; she said [my] husband misses that at the beach house. The thing is, every time we went to my Shore condo, he would play that song when he walked in the door,” she says. “She was explaining someone I thought was my grandfather; it ended up being my husband’s grandfather and she said something no one else would know. She said, ‘This man is telling me you have his gold expandable watch.’ I came home, went in my husband’s jewelry box and there was the gold watch. I didn’t even know I had it.”

It wasn’t just memories and various items that were being brought up; Durham told her practical things going on in her life, like the problems she was having with her sprinkler system and described her house—what it looks like, how it’s on a corner, what was around it and that her husband visits often.

“I was comforted because I felt like he was talking to me but I also was surprised by her. I was so excited to make a connection with my husband,” she says.

Durham is a second-generation psychic medium; her mother, Joan Friel Durham, was a prominent psychic medium who started the family business, Psychic Studies & Investigations, and worked with law enforcement agencies to assist in murder investigations. Kym Durham remembers seeing spirits as young as age 4.

“I started realizing that people would talk to me. At that age, I’d describe to people that angels my mom reads in the office sometimes came to my room to say hello,” she recalls. “My mom would make sense of it without making a big deal of it. She never evoked fear; it was a more matter-of-fact kind of thing.”

She is sensitive to energy, people, places and things. “I can see energy and hot spots on people. It looks like flares if you will; spots where you have trauma and healing. I’m not a doctor, but I have a large health care clientele and have seen things medically on people months and years before they pronounced themselves. It gives them a swift kick to seek medical attention.”

Durham has also followed in her mother’s footsteps in assisting local authorities. “I follow energy trails people leave behind,” she explains. “I can sit in front of detectives and explain sites and structures that a missing person walked past and touched.” Durham has helped authorities in high-profile, million dollar robbery cases and described the entire crime scene— what exactly the robbers did, how they entered the house, what the house looks like and even the license plates from the cars—all from her office.

Another case she assisted with was Shane Montgomery’s disappearance in late 2014. The 21-year-old West Chester University student went missing on Thanksgiving and was found drowned in Philadelphia 38 days later. Durham was the one who helped locate Montgomery’s body.

“I described physical objects in very specific terms—a column of new concrete 2 feet high that looked like a sewer grate was on top of it, and it had a neon K sprayed on the side,” she recalls. “That was one of the three things I described and [the detectives] found all three items just as I described them. They brought me to the site and I pointed in the river where his keys were later found.”

Shortly after, she met with Montgomery’s family, including one of his aunts, to see if she could make a connection with Montgomery to help lead her to his body. “During our session, I linked with Shane and could see through his eyes and feel his skin; I could smell the rocks,” she recalls. “I drew a map of where his body was in the river.”

Two weeks later his body was found. Patty Lattanzio, a psychic medium based out of Gloucester Township, says the majority of her clientele are those who have lost loved ones to suicide—a tragedy she can relate to directly after her son took his own life.

“There’s an extra connection and it’s different from seeing a medium that hasn’t lost a child. … There are so many reasons to seek someone who can get glimmers of the future. I don’t have all the answers for everyone, not even myself, but I do get glimmers and see spirits and a very calming energy that comes with that.”

When Michele Stillman performs readings, the psychic medium of 10 years says it has an emotional effect on her, especially when describing a tragic event. “The toll it takes on me is draining because I see, hear and feel the spirits; it’s over emotional at times,” she says. “It takes a lot of your energy.”

Voorhees resident Martyne Greenblatt went to Stillman after the loss of her father and was taken aback as soon as the reading began.

“My grandmother and grandfather were the first [to come into the room] and she said their names, Ruth and Martin; there would have been no way she would have known that,” Greenblatt says. “Then she asked if I lost my father recently because he came forward; I still did not speak, I just started to tear up. She said he kept saying, ‘Don’t cry baby.’ My father always called me baby. She also said he felt bad he did not say goodbye to me, but he did to my siblings. Again, there’s no way anyone would know that. She is the real deal.”

“I always tell people I don’t just give peace to them, but peace to those who have passed because a lot of times they want to make amends,” Stillman says. “The most fulfilling part is putting everyone at peace and [letting them] say what they didn’t get to say when they were alive. It’s been the most amazing gift.”

But not all are convinced. Nikki Stouffer reluctantly went to see a psychic with her mother—calling it an experiment—and says she was given false information about her future.

“She told me that my fiancé was an alcoholic, we would never have a good relationship and I would never have kids. She also thought I was a nurse which I wasn’t,” the Medford resident recalls. “I did a good job of keeping an expressionless face during her assessments and didn’t let on that she was dead wrong. Fast forward 15-plus years and my husband still doesn’t drink except socially at parties, we have two kids and a successful marriage. She couldn’t have been more wrong about my past, present and future.”

Stouffer’s opinion on psychics hasn’t changed since the reading and she says her expressionless face may have played a part in the psychic’s reading because she thinks body language may give information away for psychics to feed off.

“I think a lot of people give up information and don’t remember doing it,” she says. “I think people hear what they want to hear. … I think both people are engaging in a situation that is a lie believing that they are in the truth.”

Fear and religion are some of the reasons Stillman says people don’t believe in psychics and mediums. “They were brought up a certain way with certain beliefs; if something goes out of the norm it can be frightening,” she says. “I respect everyone’s opinion, but I have changed many skeptics’ minds. I will come to people’s homes where usually it’s [the woman] who wants the reading, and I will have to have their husband or boyfriend come in because someone on the other side has a message for them. They have become my clients since.”

There are also others claiming to be psychics and scheming people out of money—and lots of it. Psychic fraud is a $4 billion industry in the United States with New Jersey being one of the states it’s most prevalent, according to Bob Nygaard, private investigator and member of The National Association of Bunco Investigators, also known as NABI. Known as a leader in cracking down on psychic fraud, Nygaard calls it an epidemic and he has prosecuted 30 psychics and recovered more than $3.5 million for his clients to date. Many times it starts with the so-called psychics asking their victims for a small amount of money—$5 or $10.

“Before you know it, the psychic sees a darkness or negativity and has to look into the root cause of the problem. Or they’ll tell them the reason they have cancer or their husband left them or they lost their job is because of a curse and they need thousands upon thousands of dollars to remove them,” Nygaard says.

But the “curse” was never corrected or removed, or another problem somehow arises, which means the victim has to pay more money.

“You put money into something and get suspicious you think to yourself, well maybe I shouldn’t have done this but I already put so much into it; I’d rather put money in than admit I got duped. It’s almost like a psychological thing,” he says. “They are telling lies to people under false pretenses. … If they continue to ask for more and more money, that’s a red flag.” Other red flags Nygaard mentions is if you are told there is a curse and if they ask you questions about things going on in your life to try and find out what is your vulnerable spot.

“Bigger red flags are if they tell you not to tell anybody about the work they are performing. They say this is only between you, me and God—nobody else,” he says. “Because they know they are dealing with a vulnerable person and don’t want that person talking to a friend or family member because that person who isn’t vulnerable realizes it’s a scam.”
The victim’s vulnerability plays a big role in these scams, and Nygaard says it’s easier than one thinks to fall for them.

“People are vulnerable and hurting and desperate; they are grieving the loss of loved ones,” he says. “It’s easy to sit back and laugh and say I wouldn’t have fallen for that, but you have to walk a mile in their shoes and have empathy. I try to put myself in that person’s shoes and say, what if that was me? What if that was me who lost my job? It puts things in perspective.”

To read the digital edition of South Jersey Magazine, click here.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 8 (November 2018).

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