Happy Medium

From Merlin to Charles Dickens, the spirits of the late and the great are all present at the party in magician-channeler Lawrence Furman's head

She felt differently when she realized that Nonah was the same entity that McClain had channeled in a private reading for her more than a year earlier. Much of that reading Creevay hadn't described to Furman, so when his strange new voice began relating details about their past lives together in Atlantis -- details that dovetailed with the earlier reading -- she believed she was hearing the truth. (One tidbit: Furman was a centaur in Atlantis and died tragically.)

More "visitors" arrived in the early morning hours back at the house they were staying in. Creevay had awakened Furman to proclaim her love for him, declaring, "We're supposed to be together!" Furman beamed happily in his sleepy state, then began channeling some of her former lovers. There were, for starters, Dickens and Longfellow, who began reciting sad poems to her. "Longfellow was just, like, totally forlorn," she says now. "The feeling I had was...get over it."

By the end of the trip, Furman had voiced at least fifteen different spirits. He channeled, among others, several fairies, a leprechaun, some Native American shamans, the wizard Merlin, Philos (archivist of every soul's incarnations), an E.T. or two, and Sophocles. Perhaps the weirdest of all the visitations came from the spirit of their cat, Mewster. Creevay's brother Timmy was cat-sitting for them back in South Beach, and when she wondered aloud how the cat was doing, Furman suddenly began arching his back and talking in a soft, feline voice.

"Is Timmy taking good care of you?" Creevay asked the cat's spirit.
"No, Timmy's not here," the catlike voice said, and when Creevay checked her watch, she realized that back in Miami Beach it was the time that her brother was away at work.

Things were starting to get a bit crowded inside Furman. With so much going on then, he says, "I felt a little concern about how do I control this." Later he learned techniques for mastering the influx so he wouldn't turn into a 24-hour stop-and-shop for wandering spirits.

After he returned to Miami, he began practicing his new craft with a small group of friends he knew from McClain's classes. At first he charged nothing, but as his confidence in his abilities slowly increased, he decided he should start getting paid. "I don't believe in giving away things of value for free," he says. Plus, he notes, "I started running out of money."

He professes little concern about convincing anyone that his spirit communication is genuine. "If people don't believe me, they don't have to come," he says of his psychic readings. "I don't feel I need to prove that channeling is true."

This sort of indifference to concrete proof is just one of the reasons that Furman's fellow magicians are so dubious about psychic claims. The Amazing (James) Randi, a Fort Lauderdale-based magician who is the nation's leading debunker of psychics, says of channeling, "There's no evidence for it whatsoever. People [mediums] can play any role they want." The skepticism is so great that the charter of one of two national magician organizations, the Society of American Magicians (SAM), has for years barred membership to anyone claiming occult or supernatural powers, Randi notes. Furman doesn't contend he uses psychic powers to create his effects, yet he bridges in his own life the seemingly opposing worlds of stage magic and the supernatural. Magicians, who spend countless hours practicing to create illusions, find themselves competing for the public's attention with those who claim to perform such things naturally. Psychics and skilled illusionists, though, share in common the ability to inspire awe and wonder.

Here in Miami a group of mostly amateur magicians gather each month to sharpen their skills at a local SAM meeting, and those familiar with Furman's work say they admire him as an entertainer A but they're dismissive of his psychic pursuits. "When I first heard about it, I laughed," says Andrea Friedman, manager of a magic shop on Biscayne Boulevard. Although Furman's magician friends believe he is earnest, they steer clear of his channeling work.

Furman himself is aware how strange his psychic experiences may seem. "Some will feel it's insane," he admits. Still, he adds, after he began channeling, "I didn't feel like I was nuts. It felt too good and wonderful."

Furman doesn't talk about madness lightly. He knows what it is to go crazy.
On the outside everything seemed normal at first in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. He was an extroverted, athletic boy. Still, even as a child his interior life was already quite unusual: He underwent regular bouts of out-of-body experiences underneath the covers in his bed. Those were ecstatic experiences, though, unlike the ragings of the interior voices he began hearing in his teens. One day, after his parents had divorced, he felt another personality take control of him, lead him to the family medicine chest, and find a razor blade. His older sister and mother came home from work to find the fourteen-year-old Furman underneath the bathroom sink with his wrists slit.

"There was blood all over," his mother, Ruth Furman, recalls. "Not a word came from him, he was like a zombie. I almost passed out."

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