Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Irma Slage

This column was published in the Tri-Valley Herald in November 2005, and features one of the nicest and most caring women I've ever met. I first met Irma on my TV show some years ago when we discussed The Lovely Bones for our book club selection.

I took this photo at the Ripon Library. Irma is on the right, with Melinda Kopp, Ripon's branch librarian.

On a January day in 1977, Irma Slage was cleaning her upstairs bathroom when her friend and neighbor Rose was suddenly standing in front of her.

“I couldn’t understand why Rose was there,” Slage said. “Then she told me I needed to call Charlie, her husband.”

Slage, who at the time was in her late 20s, walked into her bedroom, picked up the phone and started to dial, but then hung up.

“I wondered how Rose could be standing next to me,” Slage said, adding that Rose told her again she needed to call Charlie. “I wondered if I was crazy.”

Two weeks later, she finally called Charlie, and learned that Rose had died from breast cancer the day Slage had been cleaning her bathroom.

“That day in 1977 was a turning point,” said Slage, author of Phases of Life After Death and a Livermore resident. “I finally realized that the voices I had been speaking with all my life were spirits. Until then, I’d thought everyone could hear voices in their minds.”

Slage initially told only her parents and husband. Her mother was accepting, but her father told her to keep it to herself. Her husband, Ted said “I believe you believe,” which Slage says was a nice way of saying “You’re losing it.”

Today Ted has no doubt that his wife can communicate with spirits, who are drawn to her to relay messages to family or friends. Over the years, he has often witnessed her recount details about a departed person she never met.

Rachel Smith of Oakdale and her sister Brenda Eardley of Ceres recently experienced just this when they spoke with Slage by phone in October.

“Our mother passed away in April 2003,” said Smith, who had read about Slage and hoped she might be able to make contact with their mother.

Smith said she and her sister revealed nothing about their mother to Slage and, in spite of being hopeful, were initially dubious. When Slage correctly relayed that Smith’s husband had a “near miss” in August 2003, Smith became less skeptical since her husband had, in fact, fallen asleep while driving and narrowly missed hitting two trees.

Similarly, Eardley said Slage relayed a familiar message from her mother. “She told me I needed to speak up for myself, to be more assertive. These were exactly the same words I’d been hearing from my mother my entire life.”

Both women found the “psychic reading” experience to be a pleasant encounter in which they learned that their mother has met a lot of people since passing and is looking out for her daughters. “Irma Slage is a caring and sweet soul,” Eardley said. “Speaking with her was a gratifying experience.”

Though Slage hopes her gift brings comfort to people who are both living and “on the other side,” news of her planned September appearance to speak at the county library in Ripon created controversy when Mayor Chuck Winn publicly contemplated making a motion to withdraw library funding if Slage was allowed to speak.

Winn had received several complaints from Christian conservatives who objected to the spiritual nature of the program.

Caught in the middle, Natalie Rencher, the newly-hired executive director of the Stockton-San Joaquin County Library system, canceled the talk two days before the event. One woman didn’t realize the program had been called off, and stood in front of the library passing out fliers that referred to the presentation as “demonic.”

The controversy prompted several residents to attend Ripon’s October 4 city council meeting. According to the city’s minutes of the meeting, one resident said “it is the strong Christian background that made Ripon what it is,” and suggested that the library “exercised poor judgment when they invited Slage to speak.”

Not all attendees agreed.

“One gentleman called for the resignation of the mayor,” said council member Mike Restuccia. “He even suggested we bring a few troops back from Iraq to protect people like him from people like the mayor.”

Eventually, after capturing brief national media attention in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and after many library patrons expressed disappointment that Slage’s talk had been cancelled, the library agreed to let Slage speak, but asked if she would not conduct any psychic readings as she normally does with such presentations.

She agreed, and the talk took place November 10, 2005.

“I’m thrilled to have Irma Slage here in Ripon,” said Melinda Kopp, branch librarian, as more than 145 people packed into the small library on Main Street. Kopp said she had never seen so many adult patrons for a single program in her years with the library.

As Slage stepped in front of the audience, she thanked everyone for their support of freedom of speech. “Looks like we made it,” she said, adding “Ripon rocks!” and pumping her fist in the air as the library erupted into applause.

During Slage’s presentation, she answered questions about her abilities. No, she doesn’t always see spirits, but can hear them. Yes, she provides counseling and does believe in rebirth. No, she can’t read people’s minds. Yes, she can often help find missing people, and works with several police agencies.

Many guests stayed to ask questions and to view photographs of Slage giving presentations where “orbs,” or circular images of spirits, were clearly visible.

Among the attendees was council member Restuccia, who came to show his support for free speech and to hear what Slage had to say.

“I wish she had done a few psychic readings,” he said. “Maybe we need to invite her back.”

For more about Slage and a schedule of her appearances, visit www.irmaslage.com.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I still want to meet her sometime.