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Kim Russo, the Happy Medium, talks to the spirits in Broward

The idea of speaking with the dead will never lose its fascinating appeal, because who wouldn’t love to receive a message from a best friend or family member who has passed away? Throughout history, many so-called psychics have exploited vulnerable souls for profit, with empty promises of communicating with their long-buried loved ones.

But what if it’s real? What if some of these psychics can actually deliver?

Meet Kim Russo, a charming 51-year-old New Yorker who goes by the clever moniker “The Happy Medium,” and who has actually become certified by The Forever Family Foundation and The Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential after a battery of tests. She has parlayed her ability to channel the spirit world that she says began at around age 9 (insert your “I See Dead People” joke here) into a successful career that includes, among many other TV appearances, hosting the series “The Haunting Of …” on The LMN Channel.

Russo heads for the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, where she will do readings with audience members as well as other demonstrations of her abilities.

She talked to about the show, her first encounters with the spirit world, what she tells the countless skeptics, and whether or not she can help you win the lottery.

What can we expect from this show?

You can expect a night of healing with amazing, spirit-filled messages from the other side. You can expect that I will walk into the audience, wherever the spirit world pulls me.  And really what the night will involve is a demonstration of spirit communication with evidence and proof of the people’s loved ones, like names and how they passed away. And hopefully, they will leave without a shadow of a doubt that it’s who they think it is with the message.

What’s your first memory of communicating with the spirit world?

Well, my first memory of seeing the spirit world was when I was approximately 9 years old – communicating with them came much later on, when I was in my late 20s. They were a group of people – that’s the best way I can describe them. As an adult now, I can say that they looked like a bunch of immigrants with black clothing. There were a total of five, three men and two women, and they would just stand at the foot of my bed and just stare right through me. And I shared a bedroom with my sister, and she just never saw what I saw. I would wake her up in the middle of the vision to see if she saw what I did, and she never did. So I would just go to sleep with the blankets clenched over my face, leaving just a little space for my nose to breathe, because first of all, I didn’t know what they wanted.

When you’re a child, you’re always looking for some sort of approval from an adult, even if it’s just a nod or a smile, but they never had any expressions on their faces. It was just staring straight through me – that’s the best way I can say it – not an eyebrow raised, not a smile, not a nod, nothing. And that I think made it even creepier for me, because they didn’t feel friendly.

Do you hear the spirits speak, or is the communication from some other way?

When they started communicating with me – there were two times – the first time that ever happened was, I was in a bowling league, and a friend of mine asked me to hold her watch, because she knew that I was talking about having these abilities. And when I held her watch – she actually forced me to do a reading for her, and I had no interest in it because I thought it was a goof – I started hearing something and said the man’s name and then I said, “He’s saying that he died from something about his lever – his lever.” And she laughed and said, “My father-in-law had a very thick Italian accent and he died of his liver.” And he went on to tell me specific names in his family – his wife was named Maria, and he told me his name, and all of his children’s names. But they were just thoughts that flooded into my mind, and I didn’t really understand how it was working. 

And then the second time, I was making my bed and picking up the pillows off the floor, and as I turned my body, there was a young girl standing in the doorway of my bedroom. And I jumped, and was startled, and she spoke to me – her words became infused in my mind. She didn’t move her lips or speak, but I heard what she was thinking or saying to me. And what she said was, “Can you please tell my mom and dad that I’m OK?” And as she turned her face – she was a very pretty little girl – I saw that one side of her face was charred, black, charcoal. And she said she died in a fire. And it all happened in a flash – I wish I could tell you how long it took me to see and hear all this, but it probably happened in an instant. She told me she was from New Jersey, and my first thought was not, “Am I hallucinating?” It was, “How in God’s name am I ever going to find her parents?” 

That was when I was in my late 20s, and from that point on, it didn’t stop. It was nonstop: “My name is Tony, my name is Jim, my name is this one, my name is that one, you need to tell my family …” In my every waking state I was hearing messages from I would say strangers that were asking me to get messages back to their loved ones saying they were OK. And … how am I gonna do this? What’s happening to me?

They always say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear, and then I met this woman who helped facilitate me understanding what was happening to me, and she gave me a list of books that I should read. 

Is this something that you can tap into whenever you want?

In the beginning, I couldn’t turn it off, because I didn’t know how. But I learned my boundaries and that I have to set very strict rules for the spirit world, and I made an agreement with them. I said I have a life, I have three children, and I cannot be at your beck and call 24 hours a day. That woman that I met – she told me to do this. She was a psychic medium. And she said make a ritual, and that every time you light a white candle, that can signal the fact that you’re ready to listen. So that’s what I did. Except that one day I was in my kitchen and I was cooking fish [laughs] and I needed to just get the smell out, and I lit a candle and all of a sudden the room filled up. So that wasn’t really helpful. But after the years went on, it was automatic, just like when you’re training a dog – after awhile, they know what they need to do. It’s just a matter of listening or not listening, because they’re always there.

I imagine you’ve encountered your share of skeptics. What do you tell them?

The first thing is, if I were not a medium, I would be the biggest skeptic, because that is my personality. I am also a New Yorker, so you have to show me and prove it to me. If this did not happen directly to me, I would not believe it myself. And then what I would explain to them is, there’s nothing magical or mysterious with what I’m able to do, because when you learn how it works, it has to do with energy. It’s more scientific than it is anything else. And the fact that we’ve proven that energy cannot be destroyed – it can only change forms – then that’s what the basis of mediumship is.

And people often associate what I do with religion, and it has absolutely nothing to do with religion, and it has everything to do with the right brain and the left brain, which is basically one part logical and the other part intuition. So people who have psychic abilities just have the right brain developed more than the left brain. It is scientific – it really is – and it can be taught, also, just like any other muscle can be developed. It takes practice, practice, practice, just like any other talent.

You’ve been certified as a medium. What kinds of tests did you have to pass?

Oh, that was interesting. All kinds of tests, all done via the telephone. I’ll give you an example of one of the tests: There was a host, and the host would get in touch with the family member that wanted to communicate with a deceased relative. And the host would tell the family member, “I’m going to call Kim at 4 o’clock, and at 4 o’clock I want you to instruct your dead person to talk to Kim through me.” In other words, the host would deliver the message back to the relative. This way, nobody can say the sitter was leading me in any way, because the sitter has absolutely no idea. All the sitter knew was the person’s first name and how they passed away. So all the details that I gave, the sitter didn’t even know if it was accurate or not – they had to deliver the message back to the family and see if it was accurate. So it was like doing a reading blind.

What do you think of the TV show “Medium,” with Patricia Arquette?

I think it’s very real to life. It seemed a little exaggerated for the audience watching it. But it’s like, how else would they be able to depict her seeing a spirit? There were some times when I didn’t agree when they would make the spirits look all cakey-white and stuff like that – that’s not how it is. But that’s Hollywood, and that’s how Hollywood wants you to see the other world, so I understand why they did it. But it’s pretty cool – they definitely did their homework, or are consulting with a medium somewhere. I do believe that.

Do people ask you for winning lottery numbers?

Yes! Of course they do. And what I say to them is, I like to gamble – I really do. But unfortunately, at the roulette wheel, this does not work. I have tried it! And I was told a long time ago that this is not what this gift is meant to be used for. However, I will say this: Over the years in all the readings that I’ve done, there have been people that have come forward from the other side who were gamblers, and they still enjoy the thrill of gambling, and they’ve given me numbers to give to their loved ones, and I’ve gotten emails saying that, “During my reading my father gave me blah-blah-blah numbers, and it was my birthday that week, and I played those numbers, and I won.” And basically, they feel that that was their dad’s birthday present to them. That was one reading, yeah, so it’s not exactly the lottery, but I have had times where the spirit has come and given me numbers for the sitter. And I trust whatever they say – I don’t question it. Because I always say, it’s not my job to read the mail – it’s really just my job to deliver it.