How Long Island Medium's Theresa Caputo Discovered Her Unique Gift

How does a psychic get their abilities? Movies and comic books rely on curses, radiation, genetic mutations and other convoluted mechanisms to bestow such powers. Parapsychologists who take the possibility of telepathy and other psi phenomena seriously have suggested several possible explanations and a more modest conception of what ESP really does; "observational" hypotheses posit that psi comes down to a quantum system (via the Psi Encyclopedia).

If you ask some high-profile media psychics themselves, they may not have much to say from a scientific end. But in Theresa Caputo's case, there is a definite beginning to her time with "the gift," as she calls it, and a timeline of development. Caputo told the Huron Daily Tribune that she was 4 years old when she first became aware of her psychic abilities, which manifested as visions of people in rooms that only Caputo could see. Her reports on this phenomenon didn't cause any great panic in her family. "I come from a very spiritual family and a strong faith family," Caputo told the Tribune. "So, no one ever really made a big deal about the things I would say growing up."

At first, Caputo assumed that the spirits she saw were her own dear departed. But by her 20s, she realized that she was able to commune with others beyond her family, leading her to her work as a medium. As an adult, she still has no explanation for psychic powers, but Caputo has said that she believes this ability exists in everyone, not just her.

Caputo doesn't know why she's a psychic

Theresa Caputo told People that her communications with the dead aren't like a regular conversation through language. Instead, she says that she experiences surges of feelings and images. She also told the magazine that she doesn't have a way to predict who will get into contact with her. She cited an incident where an image of a man in a brown suit prompted her to tell the crew inside a Burbank studio that Johnny Carson was commending them on their work. Carson had once filmed in the same studio, a fact that Caputo and the crew she was with didn't know at the time she passed on the message.

Caputo is similarly in the dark about why she has psychic abilities at all. "I still question that," she told the Huron Daily Tribune. "I couldn't understand why I was chosen and why this is my soul's journey. It's something that I struggled with for many years." Caputo struggled with anxiety early in life because of how easily she picked up on spiritual energy around other people and says that she doesn't sleep well to this day (per the Chicks in the Office podcast). But after coming to terms with her mediumship, Caputo resolved to use it to help other people heal from grief and loss. And she told the Tribune that she couldn't imagine herself in any other line of work.

Her powers have been called into question

Like any celebrity psychic, Theresa Caputo has her critics. Skeptical organizations that reject paranormal claims and seek to disprove them have had their knives out for Caputo for years. The Skeptical Inquirer put her in the same category as John Edward, another famous medium who was often accused of using cold reading to find his way to convincing answers. Citing an investigation by Inside Edition, the Inquirer opined that Caputo's "abilities" were really just careful planting of audience members and using social media to prepare ahead of time. Mark Edward, a former psychic employed by Inside Edition to look into Caputo's operation, was convinced that she relied entirely on tricks. 

The James Randi Foundation named Caputo the "winner" of their facetious Pigasus Award in 2012 for profiting off her alleged abilities through her television series (via YouTube). But it isn't only professional skeptics and retired performers who have their doubts about Caputo. Jaime Franchi of the Long Island Press went to Caputo, seeking a connection with her deceased father. A previous sitting with another psychic had left Franchi open to the possibility, but a huge miss by Caputo on a spirit she was meant to be channeling left Franchi in doubt. A backstage explanation after the show came across as damage control, and Franchi ultimately judged Caputo a charming performer, not a genuine psychic.