A voice for students at Brownell Talbot School


A voice for students at Brownell Talbot School



Reconnecting with my Fictional (and Dead) Uncle

Prophet v Profit
Calvin Snyder
Courtesy of Canva

The holes a deceased loved one leaves in the lives of those they cared for have the potential to change lives by irreparably breaking the status quo a person, family, or community had been living in, with no way to go back. These absences can shatter bonds or reinforce them, create the need for self improvement, or usher in depression. They can bring enemies together, or drive families apart. But what if they didn’t have to? What if you could negotiate from beyond the pearly gates and talk to those you loved, even if you are separated by death? Psychic mediums offer a solution.

For the low cost of $35-100, you can use an intermediary to talk to anyone you wish by channeling the vibrational energy of those you love. That is, if these mediums are telling the truth. If not, then the work these mediums are doing constitutes exploitation of the grieving for personal profit. To find out, Hutch Reumann and myself posed as cousins trying to reconnect with our dead uncle, “Uncle Robby.” Uncle Robby did not exist, but we would try our best not to give that fact away. This would serve as a proverbial turing test for our medium, if they could tell Uncle Robby was fake, they could prove themselves legitimate, if not, they revealed their operation to be a sham. The only problem came from actually finding a medium.

Our original plan was to find a local medium we could drive to and film an in-person chat with. Sadly, we could not find a date to talk to the medium at our original location, and all the other mediums were out of our price range. This is when a shining beacon of (affordable) divine light came through the clouds and directly into my laptop: Fiverr. Using the online freelancing program, Hutch and I were able to get in contact with a top rated medium. Her website boasted over forty years of experience, twelve thousand readings, and a 4.9 star rating. She said she would use, “all of my skills to give the most thorough reading possible to contact your loved ones, & spirit guides to answer your questions.” Our only complaint, she had a strict no-spell policy. “I do not cast spells, please do no.” With the exception of her inability to cast spells, she was perfect. I paid my $35 and booked my appointment for the next day.

Here is a selection of highlights from the fifteen minute interview. The full transcript is available here.

[CS] Alright, I just want to know, if uh. Just how Uncle Robby’s been in the past six years.

[PM] Okay, and is Uncle Robby on the other side too?

[CS] Yes, I assumed that we were talking about Uncle Robby.

[PM] Oh, is that him? I was thinking grandpa.

[CS] He was like a grandfather to me.

[HR] Uh, Uncle Robby, he was a big fan of Jimmy Buffet and I know he just recently passed. I was only wondering if Uncle Robby maybe finally got to meet him?

[PM] Yhea, he’s talking about the margaritaville guy, right?

[HR] Yeah.

[CS] Cheeseburger in paradise.

[PM] “We’ve been to margaritaville.” That’s his words. He said “We’ve been to margaritaville.”

[HR] That’s good to hear.

[CS] Um, he did tell us about, one time, when we were at his place in Savannah about Leonard.

[PM] Ah, yes.

[CS] When he was a child, he told a lot of stories about–

[PM] Leonard. He’s saying this is Leonard. Now he’s saying, he says that uh… The other one, the chihuahua is already reborn. It’s already gone, like, with somebody. 

[CS] That’s wonderful, was it reborn as a dog?

[PM] Yeah, well all souls were what they were created to be. 

[CS] Oh. That’s wonderful?

[PM] So, dogs always remain dogs. It can be anything from a wolf to a chihuahua.

[HR] That certainly fits.

[PM] A cat can be anything from a lion to a kitty-cat. But, you know, they’re always gonna be feline.

[CS] That’s good, ‘cause sometimes I wonder if I was, in a past life, Rhesus Macaque. But if all souls are the same.

[PM] No, like I said. Humans will only… Well, our souls are created to house the bodies that are designed for their energy. All souls are. So there are actually other worlds that we can incarnate on, but we will be in the life form that was created to house our vibrational energy.

[CS] Oh, that’s fascinating.

[PM] So, we do have bodies on other worlds, but on this world basically human is human. That’s all you get. Whereas, like I said, a cat can come back as a lion, or as a pussycat, but it’s still gonna be a feline.

[CS] That’s wonderful.

[PM] He says, uh. All he’s telling you… Also do you know someone named Duncan?

[CS] I do.

[PM] And is there a problem with Duncan? Because he’s talking about, “there needs to be changes with Duncan.”

[HR] We haven’t spoken to Duncan in quite a while. 

[CS] Duncan is our uncle. Uncle Robby was our great uncle, so it was his… Nephew, I believe. And he’s struggled with some substance abuse issues.

[PM] Ah, okay. That might be what he’s talking about, because he’s saying that he’s trying to help him make some changes. That it’s time for him to make the changes. Does that make sense?

[CS] Yeah.

[PM] I guess he’s just letting you guys know that it’s being worked on.

[CS] That’s good to know.

[HR] It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him.

[CS] Yeah, I just hope he’s doing alright. We haven’t had contact with him in a few years.

[PM] Well, it feels like there’s changes, so don’t be surprised if you hear maybe around the end of this year. That Duncan is doing a lot better and making positive changes. Spirits doing everything they can to help him.

[CS] I’m glad to know that he’s pulling for him. Because, Duncan is not an easy man to love, but if anyone could – love him – it would be Uncle Robby and I just hope he gets better. 

[PM] Well guys, I hope it was a good reading for you.

[CS] It was amazing.

[PM] Oh, and it’s Hank, right? The other one.

[CS/HR] Hutch.

[PM] Hutch, sorry. I’m old.


Coming out of the interview, Hutch and I left with different options. I came out validated, I felt correct in my assumption that mediums were grifters, whereas Hutch left with the opinion that there was merit in visiting a psychic medium. Therefore, in the interest of fairness, we have agreed on six questions to answer with the intent of not compromising our opinions.


Q1: Is it morally wrong to engage with a PM?

HR: Not at all, mediums are used essentially as artists by the two types of people who use them. The first group is people who believe in mediums and the second is people who don’t believe in mediums but want to see what the big deal is. For the first group who actually believe in mediums they are simply being provided with a legitimate service that they want, akin to going to see a play or movie. For those in the second group they are experiencing something new regardless of its legitimacy or necessity, for these people mediums serve as artists that they don’t necessarily follow or support but are interested in. 

CS: Not necessarily. I cannot fault a grieving person for seeking relief for their grief. Nevertheless, this is how mediums make their money and perpetuate the lies their careers are built off of. On top of that, the service provided is nothing but a facsimile of a previously existing connection, in the way that the leg muscles of a frog twitch after death, if sufficient electricity is available.


Q2: Is it morally bankrupt to claim to be a PM?

HR: For those who genuinely believe that they are in fact mediums then there is nothing wrong with it. Even operating under the assumption that the medium is consciously lying, I struggle to see a situation wherein a medium is so influential as to hurt someone. The medium gains money from the service and the client gains emotional fulfillment. 

CS: Absolutely, making money off of grieving people who want to see their relatives again is adjacent to fraud and can recontextualize the lives of those being “channeled” without their knowledge or consent. 


Q3: What is the correct amount of money to charge, if you are a PM?

HR: The Medium we used cost us around $35 and I would’ve considered it reasonable up to the $20-35 dollar range. Any amount above that starts to more seriously get into the expensive side of things especially considering that the readings lack any real legitimacy.

CS: As mediums go, the one we found on Fiverr came cheap. Most mediums were in the $50-100 range, so $35 was relatively cheap. Honestly, I’m proud of finding such a relatively affordable psychic.


Q4: Do the PMs believe what they are saying?

HR: There may be a few who do, but ultimately I think it unlikely that most do.

CS: I really don’t believe so. There has to come a point in any reading wherein a medium cannot proceed based on intuition alone. We made sure to use a medium held in high esteem for our reading, as we wanted to give the fairest argument possible for the psychic medium industry. That being said, I don’t think she believed a word of what she was saying. She repeatedly got Uncle Robby’s relation to us wrong, Hutch’s name wrong and changed her predictions after what we said contradicted them. I feel that if the medium thought she was telling the truth, she would need to fit the behavior of someone who truly believed themselves to be psychic.


Q5: How should PMs deal with bad relationships between the counsel and the deceased?

HR: To be brutally honest, dead relatives don’t care, can’t care, about their legacy, but the PM should still bear responsibility for how they influence the client and that influence should be used to help someone find peace. 

CS: Among the most manipulative things the medium did during our call was bringing up the subject of our uncle Duncan. She said that Duncan was struggling, and that he was going to make changes for the better. Duncan (if he existed) was alive at the time of our call, and making predictions for the recovery of someone who “struggled with substance abuse issues” is a morally dangerous game, as the medium has no control over the actual recovery of the struggling relative in question.


Q6: Can a PM be held accountable for what they say, given they believe what they are saying?

HR: Legally, yes they should be. I’m not a professional but should a medium not be held accountable then any, even ones consciously lying, could claim to have believed what they said and get out of whatever punishment would normally befall them. This of course assuming that somehow something horrible happens, which seems quite unlikely
CS: Legally, no. There is no real chance of legal action being taken up against a psychic for the things they say. However, this is a moral case to be made that they should face accountability for the things they say. Hutch and I made sure to agree with the medium whenever possible, changing names and altering our family tree as necessary to fit with the medium’s vision of the world. However, this is not the view that most people will take into a reading. Most people will go into a reading seeking the guidance of real deceased relatives and will be met with pseudoscience about “vibrational energy,” spirits saving people from themselves, and an ethereal Jimmy Buffet. Coming out of that interview was disorientating, and I can only imagine how much more confusing that would be were Uncle Robby real. 

I would like to end this article with a few quotes from a great man, a special man: Uncle Robby. He was a wise soul full of great quotes, and I can think of no better tribute to his legacy than his own testimony from beyond the veil.

“You’re doing a great job!”

“It’s okay to be a little irresponsible sometimes.”

“When the time came to leave the body, she was there.”

“Just ask the questions, they’re not gonna think you’re dumb. If you continue on the path that you’re going on with them, in about 11-14 months, you will be on track to being in a manager position.”

And, finally.

“We’ve been to margaritaville.”

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About the Contributors
Calvin Snyder
Calvin Snyder, Staff Writer
Calvin was a senior at Brownell Talbot during the 2023-2024 school year, his only year with Verbatim. During his time at BT, he was the student leader for the Brownell Talbot pep band, editor-in-chief of The Ivy and the Ashlar: BT's annual art and writing publication, founded the Omaha chapter of the Owl Exploration Society, and won a Scholastic Art and Writing award for Critical Essay. Having spent three years outside of Verbatim, Calvin tried to make up for lost time. This manifested in a series of essays he affectionately calls "The Hubris Collection." He particularly likes "Fixing all my Problems with Crystal Magic," "Reconnecting with my Fictional (and Dead) Uncle," "Speedrunning Mandarin Chinese," and "Recreating the Old Testament in the Sims 4." He was honored to contribute his time to Verbatim.
Hutch Reumann
Hutch Reumann, Chief Multimedia Editor, Lepidopterologist, Hall Monitor
Hutch Reumann is a Junior who has been on the Verbatim staff since his Freshman year. Although he previously wrote about video games that excited him, he now primarily records and edits all of Verbatim's podcasts.

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