CBS show about paranormal investigator based on woman's real-life experiences with the dead. NOTE: There are several Ohio-specific references -- can be localized, deleted.
Quick, name two Clevelanders who have shows on CBS. Drew Carey, you know. But how about Mary Ann Winkowski? The hit show “Ghost Whisperer,” is based on Winkowski’s real life as a paranormal investigator of nearly 40 years. She says that much of her work is helping “Earth-bound” spirits of the dead “cross over.” Winkowski, who recently wrote her first book, “When Ghosts Speak: Understanding the World of Earthbound Spirits,” will speak at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Fieldcrest Holistic Learning Center at 1346 Easthill St. SE (West Barn), followed by a book signing. “My grandma realized I could see and talk to spirits when I was 2 1/2,” she said. “What she didn’t realize is all kids can do it. Their ‘imaginary’ friends aren’t imaginary.” Winkowski, who still lives in the Cleveland area, said children lose the gift because they fear being treated differently, or because their parents discourage it. “My grandma started taking me to funerals at 4 1/2,” she said, “But she didn’t tell my parents.” First-Grade Experience She said that when, as a 7-year-old at St. Francis de Sales School in Parma, she spotted a disheveled-looking male ghost standing behind a classmate. “The nuns made it quite clear to me that I was the only one seeing it; no one else was,” she said. Winkowski said one nun informed her that what she probably saw was the girl’s guardian angel. “I don’t think so, but you’re in first grade,” she recalled with a laugh. “You’re going to argue with a nun?” When the apparition reappeared three weeks later and Winkowski insisted on being believed, she was threatened with not making her First Communion. “I went home that day and told my grandma, who told me, ‘Mary Ann, not everyone can do this.’ She told me not to talk about it to outsiders. I didn’t even tell my husband for two years when we got married. By then, we had our first daughter. After he heard my whole thing, he said, ‘OK. It’ll be hard, but I can handle it.’” The couple has two daughters, 39 and 35; the younger one has her mother’s gift. Unfinished Business Winkowski said a spirit can be Earth-bound for any number of reasons. “Some have unfinished business,” she said. “Someone who’s murdered isn’t going over until they tell someone, who killed them. A young mother won’t leave her kids. Others are still attached to their property. “If you buy diamonds from an estate sale, I can almost guarantee you’ll bring home a ghost. I’ve never seen a spirit younger than 3, which is just common sense. Their guardian angel or grandma or grandpa comes to get them.” Winkowski said Earth-bound spirits are everywhere. “They need human energy to keep going,” she said. “Grocery stores are hot spots because they’re such high energy, high-stress places. ... I get invited to a lot of funerals. Ghosts always attend their own funerals. I scare ghosts, sometimes. They never think anyone can see them. Because of the way we’re raised, people don’t tell you that when you die, there are people who still can talk to you.” Her ‘Sin’ A devout Catholic who’s never been to a psychic, Winkowski said she doesn’t try to convince skeptics or people who think she’s committing a “sin.” “The Bible is open to interpretation,” she said. “You can find any passage to suit your needs. Older priests are more open to what I do than young priests. Retired priests tell me I’m helping people bring closure to their lives. “It cuts across every denomination. This is not everybody’s cup of tea, but I don’t feel it’s my job to change anybody’s mind. I keep doing my work.” Winkowski dismisses the notion that some ghosts don’t know they’re dead, saying, “Flies in your attic means you need an exterminator, not a ghostbuster.” White Light Winkowski said she constantly wrangles with “Ghost Whisperer” producers who want to “Hollywood-ize” incidents from her life. “Ghosts are not bloody and gory,” she said. “They’re pure energy. Their bodies are mangled, not their spirits. One producer told me, ‘Mary Ann, we’re not making a weekly documentary on ghosts, this is entertainment; this is what audience wants. You want to get the truth out there? Write a book.’ And I thought, ‘That’s a good idea.’” Winkowski said part of her gift entails visualizing a portal of “white light” so the Earth-bound can depart. “When you take your last breath, that white light is there,” she said. “It remains 72 to 80 hours after burial. If you don’t go into it, you’re stuck.” But go where, exactly? “I don’t believe everyone goes to the same place,” Winkowski said. “I believe in heaven, so I have to believe in hell. Who am I to decide who goes where? The white light is not heaven. That’s not my decision. My job is to make the light.” Tickets for the talk are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Call (330) 966-2222 or e-mail email@example.com.
On the Net: www.MaryAnnWinkowski.com.