But his abilities, which supposedly allow him to communicate with the deceased, have led him to become one of the country’s most recognizable psychics, appearing on A&E’s reality series “Paranormal State” and “Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal.”
On Monday, Coffey will bring his clairvoyance to the Oklahoma City Zoo for a one-night-only event, where he’ll answer questions, conduct psychic readings and attempt to make contact with the reported “Ghost Lady of the Zoo.” He recently spoke with Oklahoma Gazette about skeptics and what people can expect from Monday’s show.
Gazette: When did you first realize you had psychic abilities?
Coffey: I remember knowing that I had some sort of special abilities as far back as my personal memories begin. There were little precognitive things that indicated that I had some sort of ability. For example, I would be able look at the phone, say a name, and within a short amount of time, that person would call.
Or I would be able to tell when someone was going to come visit us at home. It was just simple little things like that. With regard to my skill set of talking to people who have passed away, that didn’t occur until about 10 years ago.
Gazette: That must have been an interesting discovery.
Coffey: It definitely was. I was working as a travel agent at the time, and the deceased brother of a co-worker began communicating with me spontaneously. Honestly, I thought I was going crazy. But I found the courage to tell her about the information that I was receiving, and it was validated by her as memories or shared experiences that she had had with her brother while he was alive. That was the way that the door opened for me as far as communicating with the deceased.
Gazette: So you went from travel agent to psychic medium? That’s a pretty big leap.
Coffey: It was very weird. I was totally uncertain of exactly what was happening. The best way I can describe it would be that the information that was coming to me felt like it didn’t belong in my head. It felt like someone was putting it there and it was coming from a source that was not my consciousness.
Gazette: Do you pick up on the paranormal even when you’re not working?
Coffey: No. I don’t want to be Whoopi Goldberg in “Ghost” and have people come to me 24/7 about their loved ones. This is my work, and just like any other person, I’m not clocked in all the time. I’ve sort of made agreements with those in the spirit realm that I don’t want to be constantly bombarded with unsolicited information. I don’t want to be walking through Walmart and have 15 spirits come up to me and ask me to say “hello” to a family member for them.
Gazette: You have frequently appeared on A&E’s “Paranormal State” and “Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal.” What was it like working with these families and children, going through these experiences all while being on camera?
Coffey: Well, by the time these families and children had gotten to us, they had been heavily screened by the production company to make sure that there was some kind of validity to their stories of paranormal activity. Thousands of people applied to be on the show, and by the time it was narrowed down, most of these families were in complete crisis mode and very frightened.
We worked with them for three or four days each pretty constantly around the clock. We couldn’t solve all of their problems, because there is no way to do that. But each family or child that we came into contact with left in a much better place than when we initially started working with them.
Gazette: What’s the scariest or most dangerous situation you’ve ever found yourself in while working?
Coffey: I think “scary” might be the wrong word. I would say “startling” would be more accurate, because a lot of things happen that we aren’t prepared for. The weirdest or most startling thing that’s every happened was hearing a guttural, demonic voice coming from the mouth of a 2-year-old during a taping of an episode of “Paranormal State.” She said something to the effect of, “I want everyone to get out of my house.” My first reaction was just to pack up and leave. It was freaky.
Gazette: I’m sure you deal with skeptics very often. How do you respond to them?
Coffey: The work that I do comes along with people who are going to berate, belittle and disbelieve me. True skeptics are at least open-minded, because they aren’t sure what to believe. Most skeptics I encounter can be rather belligerent, and their first instinct is to attack my work and me. I’m not here to defend or debate what I do. To do that would be counterproductive, because so many people are very stuck in their ways and will never open up their minds.
Gazette: You’ll be making an appearance this Monday at the Oklahoma City Zoo. What can the audience expect?
Coffey: The first half of the show will be a question-and-answer session ,and the second half is when I will do readings for audience members. After that, I’ll go on an investigation throughout the grounds of the zoo to see if we can learn anything about some of the paranormal activity that has been reported.
Gazette: What do you want those who come to your show to take away when they leave?
Coffey: Hope. I do what I do because my absolute worst fear is that when I die, that’s it: lights out, roll credits, the end. Do I believe it? No, I don’t, but it’s still a fear.
So, if people are coming to me to communicated with a deceased loved one, I want to instill hope in them that their loved one is OK and that they continue on. I often tell people that death doesn’t end the relationship; it just alters it.
“Coffey Talk with Chip Coffey” begins 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Oklahoma City Zoo, 2101 N.E. 50th, in the Rosser Conservation Education Center Auditorium. Tickets are $49-$149. For more information, call 424-3344 or visit chipcoffey.com.