By DAVID GREEN
"I absolutely doubt myself," she told an audience of 30 people Saturday afternoon at Stair Public Library. "I come from an academic background."
After four college degrees, including a doctorate, she developed skepticism in the realm of what she calls "woo-woo stuff."
"I love that term for just unexplainable things," she said. "It acknowledges that it's out there, and hard to believe and understand. It's kind of joking, but it's also some pretty wonderful stuff."
Alm spoke about how it all started for her nine and half a years ago at her summer home on Cape Cod. Her husband was asleep and she was restless with a "jiggly" feeling inside.
Up until that point, she said, the woo-woo stuff—visits from dead relatives, communicating with spirits—was something she considered interesting but certainly not part of her own life.
She worked into the night for a while, felt tired and laid down in hopes of calming her mind. An image came to mind like a little video that she decided must have come from her mother who died four years earlier.
"This went on for several days," she said, "with sweet little things popping into my mind."
Several months passed before anything verbal came into her head. Some messages were quite clear to her; others were more convoluted.
At one time her mother asked her to go to Indiana and lay her hands on her father's war wounds to relieve him of his pain. That was going too far. Alm had no interest in that sort of thing.
But then she started feeling a buzzing in her hands and decided that must be evidence of what her mother wanted. She went to see her father and told him that she "seemed to be getting messages from Mom."
She told him what she was asked to do and her father confirmed that that was the location of his discomfort. Her father went along with the idea and they decided to give it a try after church the next day.
Then came another message that night from her mother: “Invite the pastor to be present, and do it at 2 p.m."
Alm really wanted nothing to do with having the family pastor present, but they asked him and he agreed.
He came over at 2 p.m., said a prayer, and Alm touched her father where directed.
"I thought it was a little crazy," she said, "but I could feel the energy."
She felt a little embarrassed by the episode, and besides, her father hadn’t had any pain that day. There was no sudden exclamation that the pain was now gone. However, she asked him about it recently and he says the problem is gone.
Her mother sent a message saying Alm could communicate with other departed people so she practiced with some friends. She soon learned to ask for identifiers—something to provide a positive connection between the client and the spirit.
"The better you know someone, the harder it is," Alm said.
When you know a lot about someone, you doubt the images you receive because you think it's something you already know rather than a message from somewhere else.
"The hardest thing," she said, "is that messages look and sound exactly like your imagination. You don't recognize that it's coming from somewhere else. That's a huge stumbling block to get over."
Sometimes what she tells people makes no sense and she admits there are times when it really is her imagination at work. However, she's getting much more comfortable with her abilities and trusting herself more often.
Alm told several anecdotes from her experiences with psychic readings, mentioning that the identifiers are often very interesting. For example, she once had an image of a totem pole and learned the subject had one in his yard. Many more stories are told in her book, "Woo-Woo: Becoming a psychic at 50." The book is available at Stair Public Library. All of the copies she brought to the library for sale were purchased.
"Every reading I've ever done has been so loving," Alm said. "I've never had a frightening message or I wouldn't be doing it."
After learning about other mediums who claim to communicate with animals, Alm decided to give it a try with her dog, Jock. She sat down beside him one day and asked what he does all day while she's at work serving as director of libraries at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
“And the next thing that popped into my mind, in word, a whole sentence was, ‘I sleep on all the beds.’ It was such a surprise. Jock would not get on a bed if I begged him to.”
She was amused enough to walk into the guest room and sure enough, there was an indentation next to the pillow on each bed.