James Van Praagh made his name talking to dead people around the world, but he’s also active in his local community group.
The Laguna Beach resident is a self-proclaimed medium who has written six books on spirituality and his life talking to the dead. He’s also the producer and inspiration for the CBS show “Ghost Whisperer,” which was just renewed for its third season.
“People love shows about the supernatural and spiritual world,” Van Praagh said. “That’s just validation that people are hungry for this.”
Since moving to Laguna Beach 12 years ago, Van Praagh has been active in his community as a member of the South Laguna Civic Assn. and as an advocate of open government and civic involvement.
He said he chose Laguna Beach to live in because of its open-minded, positive aura.
“I moved here originally because this is a city full of creative energy,” Van Praagh said.
Van Praagh grew up in New York and came to California for college. While working in broadcasting in his early twenties, a friend of his asked invited him to see a medium.
Van Praagh said the medium told him he would be channeling the dead in two years’ time.
Since then, Van Praagh has traveled the world giving readings and, he says, helping people communicate with lost loved ones.
Van Praagh said the key to his gift is connection to energies. He explained that everything has an energy field. He claims that being sensitive to those energies enables him to see, feel and communicate with the dead.
“Thoughts are real things. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there,” Van Praagh said.
But when he’s not dabbling with the deceased, he applies his lessons of connectedness to his personal and public life.
Van Praagh revels in nature. His South Laguna home is on top of a hill overlooking the ocean, a canyon and a green hillside.
He connects with the world through natural beauty, Van Praagh said. He even plants his garden according to the colors and plants that will bring out his best energies.
His scenic home in the hills has been transformed into a spiritual sanctuary, where he is surrounded with crystals, plants and symbols of his spirituality.
Because a healthy environment is important for personal health, Van Praagh said he believes people have a duty to care for the Earth.
Ocean pollution is a major concern to Van Praagh. He said he would like to see more of an effort made to filter Aliso Creek to keep harmful runoff from reaching Laguna Beach’s waters.
Van Praagh cites the large numbers of sea animals being killed by toxic algae, and the damage done to the city’s tide pools, in making his case that the oceans need help.
Van Praagh is also concerned about the city’s future. He fears that Laguna Beach is getting overdeveloped and open land that should be protected is being lost.
“You can only do so much until Mother Earth says ‘no more,’” Van Praagh said.
Commercialization for the sake of the tourism dollar has, in Van Praagh’s opinion, corrupted the essence of what the city is supposed to be.
With houses being built so close together, and high-end businesses proliferating, Van Praagh said he sees the small artist-colony town charm slipping away.
“It’s turning into another Newport Beach, and that’s not right,” Van Praagh said.
Van Praagh said he hopes to use the gift he was given to help people connect to Laguna’s community and put the city on the right track for residents, both politically and ecologically.
“We are blessed to live here and we have responsibility to take care of it,” Van Praagh said.