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With Medium Ernest VanDenBossche

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New York Times Article

Northport Journal; The Very Determined Meet the Dearly Departed


By Ernest Van Den Bossche's count, 18,000 guests have visited his Temple Heights Spiritual Camp this summer. The lodge is empty and the parking lot barren, however, because most of the guests are dead.

On a recent afternoon, Mr. Van Den Bossche, Temple Heights's genial president, stood on its porch overlooking Penobscot Bay and explained his estimate: since June, 3,000 people have come to the camp, in this town near Bangor, to consult the spiritual mediums in residence, and an average of five or six souls have been summoned per reading.

Though a camp for conversing with spirits may seem an unlikely feature of the rugged backwoods, on a per-capita basis Maine is actually a leading state in the number of organizations for mediums, according to the National Spiritualist Association of Churches. The two-building Temple Heights Spiritual Camp, more than a century old, may help to explain this: it attracts spirit-seekers from as far away as England and New Zealand, and mediums from Canada, Indiana and Texas.

Despite the crush of souls, a few members of the volunteer staff relaxed in deck chairs the other day while Mr. Van Den Bossche expounded on the calm.

''All spirits are available to be tapped into,'' he said, ''if they're in the realm where they can make contact with the earth plane, or if they're not off on important business in other parts of the universe. But it works through the vibration of being asked. I am not in contact with all these spirits all the time, because otherwise I'd be out of my tree.''

This ability to compartmentalize, a favorite coping mechanism on earth, is essential at this tidy camp, which Mr. Van Den Bossche walks with crutches because of polio. Before readings, the living must explicitly consent to having their spirits explored. Reading people's energy without consent -- ''psychic snooping'' -- is strictly prohibited.

Modern spiritualism, the belief that human souls live on to relay God's messages, began in 1848 in upstate Hydesville, N.Y., where a pair of teen-age sisters, Margaret and Kate Fox, claimed to be communicating with unseen forces through rappings on the walls.

This camp was founded in 1882 by Dr. Benjamin Colson, a spiritual healer and herbalist who received the $4,000 and 100 acres to get it started from Maine's Governor, Frederick Robie, whose ailing daughter Dr. Colson had cured through homeopathic methods.

Today the camp offers private readings ($25 each), group ''message circles'' and spiritualist services in a modest chapel. Sunflowers -- the emblem of spiritualism because they turn toward the sun, the way a spiritualist claims to turn toward the light of truth, revelation and the spirit -- are placed throughout the low-ceilinged rooms.

A visiting reporter submitted to a reading, held in a pleasant room overlooking the bay, at a table covered by a lace doily. Malcolm Spears, a medium with a Santa Claus physique and a red beard, closed his eyes. Charms and crystals hung from his neck by a cord. After saying a prayer, and having the visitor speak her name three times to insure consent, Mr. Spears jumped in.

There were freedom issues. Some claustrophobia. Guilt coming through the family and a recent revisiting of priorities, including how to balance friends and work.

When the visitor crossed her arms impatiently, wanting specifics, Mr. Spears, who works part time as a shipper for a pharmaceutical company, said promptly, ''I ask you not to do that, because it cuts me off.''

Mr. Spears, who reads the energy of objects, a study called psychometry, then asked the visitor to hand over her rings. Closing his eyes more tightly, he weighed the rings in his meaty palm. They held loss and betrayal, he said, and produced images of people turning their backs. There was a kitchen where someone who should have been there was missing.

The spirits, it seemed, were queuing up. The strongest presence was that of an older man, who had either a mustache or dentures, knew the visitor when she was 9 and wanted to give advice, Mr. Spears said. ''Does that ring a bell?'' he asked.

It rang no bells. A total stranger, it seemed, had traipsed into the reading.

But Shirley Carroll found absolute proof of the continuity of life. Her husband died in January, and so the 67-year-old Mrs. Carroll had come over from North Jay, Me., to find out what he had been doing since he ''passed over.''

And she got answers. Mr. Van Den Bossche did her reading and, without prompting, found her husband in Korea, ''helping out,'' Mrs. Carroll recalled later. Astonished, she said that her husband had been a prisoner of war in Korea and that she had never told anyone about that.

In addition, Mr. Van Den Bossche said that he saw this man having trouble with his tractor. Mrs. Carroll said that her husband had often had to clean mice from his tractor and that it had frequently broken down.

''He knew about it,'' Mrs. Carroll said, reveling in Mr. Van Den Bossche's omniscience. ''He knew it. He told about it, the tractor, so I would know who it was who was coming through to him. It was my husband.''


Mediumship, Spirit Readings and Healing with Ernie Van Den Bossche

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