Since he was a small child, James Van Praagh has felt a connection to the world of spirits that he says co-exists among the living.
Now a best-selling author, Van Praagh has spent his life trying to help see and interact with these spirits. In his new book, "Ghosts Among Us," Van Praagh shares his haunting experiences with the supernatural in shocking detail, as well as practical how-to information for those hoping to contact the dead.
Read an excerpt from chapter two below:
Chapter 2: Leaving the Body
In my field of work, I am constantly asked the same questions over and over. What is it like to die? Is there really an afterlife, and if so, where do we go? Is there any pain?
Death is the great unknown. By the time our end draws near, we have developed so many preconceived notions about death and dying through religious and societal beliefs that we have no true understanding of the event. Even though each person's experience is an individual one, based on my communication with spirits, I can tell you that there are some incredible similarities in making the transition.
No matter what factors are present at death—homicide, suicide, explosion, accident, old age—there is one constant that remains. There is no pain when you die. I can never say this enough to people. In fact, it is this absence of pain that confuses many of the newly dead because they do not realize they have died.
No one ever dies alone. When we pass out of our bodies, deceased loved ones are always there to great us. We may not have seen these people for many years, but the love bonds we experienced on earth are still very much continued on the other side.
Many experience a sense of being surrounded by a brilliant light and being pulled through a tunnel. People describe the light as God, or an all-knowing being. Some feel the light is pure peace, joy, and love. Instead of light, some ghosts describe being surrounded by a glorious display of celestial color like nothing they have ever seen.
There is an immediate sense of not being limited to the physical body. The life once lived simply falls away. In its place is an awareness of "newness" to life.
Finally, when we stand at the doorway to death, there seems to be an immediate altering of time and space. Ghosts are in a timeless, ethereal, transparent dimension. Earth time may be passing, but to a ghost everything is happening now.
Why do we escape pain at the very end? Can our spirits be aware of our impending demise and therefore shut down our pain receptors just before be die? It seems as if the Universe has indeed provided some sort of shutoff valve in our brains that goes into effect just before we leave our bodies. A person enters a blackout period and loses consciousness and memory. When I ask spirits about the violence of an accident, or about a bullet entering their flesh, or about their death by heart attack, they often respond that they don't remember the impact of the disaster. Instead, their first memories are of their loved ones. In one way or another, each has said, "I wish my [wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, sister, brother, son] knew that I was still alive.
That was the case with a young male ghost that appeared in one of my New York workshops.
"This is a young man about seventeen or eighteen who gives me the name of Sam and tells me he was crushed in a car."
A woman named Debbie jumped out of her seat. "Oh, my God, that's Sam, that's my Sam," she shouted.
"He wants me to tell you not to cry for him. He is saying that he is alive and fine."
Debbie held tissues up to her nose as she nodded up and down.
"He wants you to know that his body flew out of the front window."
She nodded again, and I continued.
"He is telling me to let you and everyone else in the audience know that he was unaware of himself going through the window. He doesn't remember it, and he didn't feel any pain. He saw his body afterward by the tree, and that's when he realized what had happened."
"Ok, I understand," said Debbie.
"He said he is with Alfred. Alfred helped him."
Debbie continued her crying. "Alfred is my father. I knew he would be there for Sam."
"He is telling me that he blacked out before the impact, and then he saw his grandfather. He thought he was dreaming, but his grandfather told him that he was in an accident. He had Sam look at his body."
Then something odd came to me. "Sam is showing me his body. I am seeing his left leg in an odd position. Do you know if his left leg was broken or torn from his body?"
"Yes," Debbie replied. "It was broken in seven places along with various ribs."
"Your son wants me to tell you that when he looked down at his body, he felt that it wasn't his anymore. He didn't feel connected to it. He felt as though he were out of it and didn't need it anymore. He also knows about the rocks you set up at the accident scene to commemorate his life. He loved the gesture very much and wants you to know that."
Debbie looked shocked. "I just did that this week. Can I ask you something? Can Sam hear me?"
"Yes. He is able to hear all of your thoughts all of the time. He knows when you are thinking of him."
The reading continued with more details about Sam's passing. Then Debbie's father, Alfred, spoke a little.
"Alfred is saying, don't worry. Daddy is taking care of everything."
Debbie seemed extremely grateful and pleased.