When she was 8 years old, Lois Berman says, she was playing in the front yard of the Brockton triple-decker she shared with her parents and grandparents. She turned to her grandfather and said, “The man across the street died.’’ An hour later, she says, the old man did indeed die. He’d been ill, but young Lois didn’t even know him.
“My grandfather was so upset with what I told him that I didn’t tell people things from then on,’’ says Berman, 68. “I thought people would get mad or think I was weird.’’
Berman, a psychic who hosts a television and a radio show in Brockton, started in cable TV years ago when the medium — pardon the pun — was young, and has built a following. She recently asked fans to vote for her in Oprah Winfrey’s contest to find a talk show host. “Your Own Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star’’ is a competition series that will premiere on Winfrey’s new network next year. The winner will get to host a talk show on the network.
Though Berman’s faithful voted for her online, she couldn’t compete with the millions of votes garnered by candidates in bigger markets. But she didn’t expect to. “I didn’t enter to win, but to challenge myself,’’ says Berman, who submitted a three-minute tape to producers.
Her current TV show is “The Psychic Mind With Lois,’’ and her radio show is “Lois on the Line.’’ The main theme for both is making life changes, and she interviews authors and others on the topic, adding her own “intuition,’’ as she calls her psychic side. “I do not make any decisions that are life-important in my head, but through my gut,’’ says Berman, a 1960 graduate of Brockton High School (she’s on the planning committee for the upcoming 50th reunion).
A former nurse, Berman is a fervent believer in past lives. She has taken several workshops and retreats on the subject. She, for example, was a male doctor who made house calls at the turn of the last century: “My name was Brown and I died of a heart attack,’’ Berman says, as matter-of-factly as if she were discussing the weather.
A serious accident in 1976 was a turning point. A drunk driver going the wrong way hit Berman’s vehicle head-on; she was in the hospital for five weeks. Despite undergoing physical therapy, she walked around for years feeling that something was amiss in her neck and back.
“People told me I was crazy, or drug-addicted because I was asking for pain medication,’’ she says. “I was shuffling around, losing strength in my upper arms.’’ At Thanksgiving, she dropped a platter of turkey.
Tests finally revealed that a piece of broken bone from her neck was slowly chipping away at her spinal cord. A doctor at the Lahey Clinic had just started doing muscle transplants, and performed one on Berman’s neck. “I think I was the second or third person he did,’’ she says. He told her she may never walk again. “But I’m 68 years old, and I’m dancing.’’
After her surgery, she had an epiphany: Everyone has a spiritual bus driver. Hers was named Harry, and he was keeping an eye on her.
“When you come into this lifetime, you make a contract with God,’’ says Berman, a divorced grandmother. “There are certain things you’ll learn, certain things you’ll have to redo, and certain things you’ll throw out. My bus driver makes sure I’m on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway so that I will be either the teacher or the student.’’
God, she says, chooses bus drivers “because he can’t do everything all the time. . . The bus driver makes sure you’re on time for the connection to the next event, or the next teacher-student moment.’’
After the crash, Berman, who could no longer lift things, gave up nursing and began doing psychic readings. She says she sees both the past and future. Joyce Sullivan, a public relations consultant from Milton, has known Berman for 30 years. “She has helped me find lost documents, predicted the birth of my first daughter, now 29, and seen me through many a crisis with her steady advice and outlook,’’ says Sullivan. “Believe in psychics or don’t, she’s wonderful either way.’’
I asked Berman about myself. “Who is Sarah?’’ she responded.
Sarah was a close friend who died a year ago. Sarah, Berman tells me, was sitting there with me, thanking me for being “a sister friend.’’
Also, Berman says, I’ve had lots of past lives. I was a child during the Irish potato famine. (Is this why I’m skinny?) I lived in France, where I died young. (No wonder I never cared for the French.) In that abbreviated life, my grandmother hid Jewish children from the Nazis during the Holocaust. “Your parents’’ — that would be my French parents, my next-to-last set — “didn’t like it because it put them in danger,’’ says Berman.
Turning to my current family, Berman says my daughter’s bus driver is Alexandra, my son’s is William, and mine is Wilhelmina. “Your daughter has been around a long time,’’ she says. “She lived in ancient Egypt. She walked in the sand with Jesus.’’
But what if people don’t believe in God, or “bus drivers,’’ or past lives, or walking in the sand with Jesus? “There are no judgments or criticisms here, it’s just the lessons,’’ replies Berman.
Don’t people sometimes think she’s, um, a bit crazy?
“First of all, that’s a compliment to me,’’ says Berman, a short woman with a huge laugh that she puts to good use. “I get calls from people who thought I was crazy and three months later they want another reading.’’
Berman stresses that it’s not her saying all these things, she’s just passing the messages along. On her shows, she takes questions about relationships, work, real estate, a loved one’s death, a pet, whatever comes up. On her website, fans thank her.
Being a reporter and thus a professional skeptic, I wasn’t sure how much of Berman’s shtick to buy. But then she says a couple of things that clinch the deal. My daughter, she says, is very bright. So bright that “Albert Einstein channels her, works with her.’’
My son, she adds, is very good looking. Very.
Truer words were never spoken.
Globe columnist Bella English lives in Milton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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