What happens after we die? Since its inception, cinema has attempted -- in every imaginable way -- to shed light on this question. Can the canvas of the afterlife be navigated like the colors and curves of a Monet painting, as Robin Williams did in "What Dreams May Come"? If we have unfinished business, will we be unable to cross over until it's resolved, as with Patrick Swayze in "Ghost"? Or will we be forced to endure a test prior to admission past the Pearly Gates, like Albert Brooks in "Defending Your Life"?
There are any number of interpretations for one of the greatest uncertainties plaguing humankind, and Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" -- which opened wide this weekend to $12 million -– is the latest to offer a glimpse into one facet of this mysterious subject. That aspect is the life of a reluctant psychic medium, played by Matt Damon, whose penchant for communing with the dead unites three converging story lines. Of course, we're left with plenty of questions about exactly how that gap between the temporal and the otherworldly is bridged. And so MTV News decided to chat with a real-life psychic to get some answers.
Kelly Hampton is a medium, angelic channel and spiritual author with over 20 years of experience in the field. Her day-to-day reality is that which Damon's character initially attempts to abandon in "Hereafter." In fact, Hampton jokes, "I haven't seen the movie yet -– though I intend to -– but it's sort of like going to see what I already know." My interest was piqued: What else does Hampton already know?
MTV NEWS: About what percent of your customers come to you seeking a link to someone who has passed on?
HAMPTON: It's about 50/50 people looking for those who've crossed over, and -- since I'm able to tap into the angelic realm, too -- people want to know about love and work and all the human conditions in between. If someone were to arrange a consultation with me and they wanted to call on someone who's crossed over, normally I'll ask the angel [Archangel Michael, Hampton's angelic channel], "Is this person ready?" Sometimes souls are not ready. But most of the time the soul is right there ready to speak. Then Michael will say yes and the person will say, "Yes -- I'm here." That's how I construct my professional business in the reading sense. In terms of connecting with loved ones on the other side, I've been doing that for a really long time now.
MTV: How did you first discover your gift? How did you hone it over time?
HAMPTON: I started my career as a medium because I lost my mother when I was a teenage girl. When I was 20, she spoke to me in a dream. It was a very profound, moving, life-changing, memorable experience. From that moment on, I knew that life was eternal. So all of this developed throughout my 20s and 30s when I worked as a medium, and it wasn't until much later that the Archangel Michael came to me. He's been the source for my channeled readings since 2005 -- he woke me in the middle of the night with a big, bright white light and he told me he was going to be assisting me and there was work to be done. He's the source for my first book, "Into the White Light" and also for my second book, releasing this fall.
MTV: How does the process of contacting the dead work for you -- can you hear and see dead people, a-la "The Sixth Sense"?
HAMPTON: Just a couple lingo words -- every craft has them -- "dead" isn't a word that I realize or use in my vernacular. The word I use is "crossed over," because life is eternal. Primarily I'm a hearer -- that's what channelers are -- I'm clairaudient. When I'm on water -- I've been on some spiritual cruises doing work -- I can see faces. In one case, the faces came to me like in a movie. They were black and white faces, as tiny and detailed as on the head of a penny. When the faces came through, they sort of knocked -- I was sleeping and it was like an energetic knock and it woke me up every time -- so by the time this was finished (this was the first time that this type of experience had happened to me) I really just wanted to get some sleep! When I'm not on water, in terms of connecting with people. I take on a sense of their personality when I channel. My voice doesn't usually change when they come through. The messages they send are largely about love and kindness. Maybe they'll go into a description about what it's like on the other side, which is really an eye-opening experience.
In terms of seeing others -- the apparitions at the foot of the bed and such -- I am not a purveyor of the paranormal freaky stuff. My gift and my purpose of calling on loved ones is to ease the grief or the burden of whoever's left behind by telling them something that may not have gotten said, reassuring them that matter changes form but it never goes away. That hope -- as opposed to scaring the bejeesus out of them –- that comes from the angelic realm.
Souls on the other side don't just come through -- it's not as though I hear all day and all night long. The universal wisdom that I believe is that if you don't ask you're not given. So even if I ask for angelic guidance and I didn't ask a particular thing, for example, "Why didn't you tell me my son was going to get sick?" The answer is always, "Well, you didn't ask." The same kind of thing is true with the way I work -- I would just ask for the name of the person who has crossed over, and the relationship to the client. Earlier on in my career, when I was learning, if I didn't call on them by name, then many people tried to come through. It's certainly a very fine-tuned skill. But I'm definitely not bombarded with messages from the other side. It's a very intended connection when I make it.
MTV: Do you consider your gift just that -- a gift? Or is it more of a curse? Have you ever tried to ignore or abandon your gift, as with Matt Damon's character in "Hereafter"?
HAMPTON: I would say my life parallels the movie exactly right, because -- in the beginning -- yeah, I thought I was a freak! I would have experiences -- my mother, from the other side, would lead me to a garage sale in my car, and I'd get goosebumps and bibles would be open with people's names in them and such. There was a period of at least five years when I was sort of in disbelief and I'd keep asking her to prove it to me and show it to me. So once I got through the "prove it to me" stage and I knew it was really real and these were not just unwanted voices coming in -- that it was actually people who I had known and then, of course, it branched out to other people that I didn't know who became clients of mine -- it was OK. But, yeah, before that point it was an uncomfortable phase for sure.
MTV: How does Hollywood get portrayals of psychics wrong? How does it get them right?
HAMPTON: It's really a beautiful gift to know that you can still connect with someone even after they've crossed, and those connections are really important to me. So I guess it would be incorrect when the goodness and the helping element is left out. When people bless me and tell me how relieved they feel -- it's the helping, the compassion of helping a soul that drives that desire. It's not, like, ghost hunting. If anything, when I go in a home and clear out unwanted energies, I just tell them to go to the light. It's about love and kindness. It's not about frightening. There's enough fear in the world. So, education-wise, it's not as much what Hollywood is doing wrong, but what might be omitted. Which would be the idea that there is so much that the mind doesn't know, so much that is universal, so much that is not religious in nature, and connections like these are healing.
What does Hollywood get right? It's easy to send electric signs -- lights on and off, water that comes on and off. Those are easier forms of transmission for souls on the other side. So that's accurate. Also sending signs like a flower on the ground or a bracelet that has meaning. The purpose of this sign is to let you know the person who passed is with you and their love is always with you. I think the transmission of signs seems to be fairly accurate. It's a totally loving connection.
MTV: What is your most memorable story from a psychic reading?
HAMPTON: One time we were trying to connect with a soul that was not in the white light just yet; he was making the transition. I was doing a party and my computer notebook blew up. It shorted out while we were trying to connect, and it never worked again. Then, the lights went out in the dining room and all the ladies were scared. Let's put it this way -- they never had me come back. It was an expensive lesson.
MTV: What can the crossed over teach the living?
HAMPTON: What is their universal purpose? It's not to say, "Gosh, can you go find my locket that's in my purse?" Their message is of love and kindness. Sometimes souls come through with a level of forgiveness. If they were not particularly loving and kind and they did some things in their lifetime that they felt ashamed of -- it depends on where they are in the healing process, where they are on the other side, where their soul is developing -- but often what I hear is apologies.
MTV: I'd like to put myself in the shoes of "Hereafter's" characters. Are you able to give me a message from someone I know who has passed on? I'd love to hear from my father, Thomas.
HAMPTON: Sure, I'll approach you like any client. We'll call on him through Michael. Michael, is Thomas here for his daughter? OK, he's here. Here's what he's saying: I've been waiting a very long time for this. And now I have the opportunity. Do you know why I've been waiting a long time? Because I don't feel like you've gotten any signs that I've sent you. This is so helpful for me, he's saying. Just so you know, dear, he says. First I want to tell you I love and I miss you, then I want to tell you that there were times that I felt like I wasn't quite the right dad to you. I want to take this opportunity before I'm cut off if you have to go to tell you about sending signs. What I'd like to do is tell you more than one sign so you'll know this is the truth and that I'm always with you. So one, he's saying, it's common and customary to send pennies. Forever and ever I'll send you pennies so you know I'm with you -- and how about this, they'll be head's up, so you know for sure. The next thing I'd like to try is I'd like to try sending you some certain kinds of smells -- the smells of cinnamon and nutmeg. How about one more? The sign will be without looking you're going to come across a cookbook or recipe book out of the blue that has Swedish meatballs on it, and that's me. You'll see that sometime between now and Christmas. You're still the apple of my eye. You always were, you always will be. There's a place over here called the Viewing Room and it works like a giant movie screen. We see an element in someone's life -- someone we've loved -- it's like a clip in a movie. The clip is from the past or present or the future. Well, in the Viewing Room, I saw you with a big award in your hand. You have so much further to go. And, by the way, dear, I'm very proud of you. Daddy is very proud of you.
***BLOGGER'S NOTE: I'd like to keep the messages for my other family members private, but it should be noted that Swedish meatballs were one of my father's favorite grandma-made dishes, and Hampton's channeling touched upon my dad's penchant for sending my mother flowers, their shared love of the household pepper grinder, and my sister's quirky childhood nickname. So, please, don't mind me -- I'll just be over here, working on my big fancy award acceptance speech…
Have you ever been to a psychic? And do you believe humans are able to commune with the dead? Tell us in the comments!