A year or so ago, I released a book about a TV producing experience that dramatically altered the direction of my life. It involves a woman who has become a very good friend of mine, British medium/clairvoyant Lisa Williams. I discovered Lisa quite by accident when I was searching for characters for reality shows I was producing. It is an understatement to say that Lisa “blew my mind”. Along with her jaw-dropping psychic abilities, she was a made-for-TV talent. Breathtaking on screen. When I shot her pilot in Manhattan, she’d never done any on-camera work before, but her warmth and genuine authenticity grabbed viewers through the camera and didn’t let them go.
The book has gone on to become an Amazon best-seller (my first), but this isn’t about writing a popular book or making some money. It’s about spreading the word that took me 40-something years to actually hear. I’m reprinting the chapter about Lisa here for you to read and hopefully experience some of what I witnessed with this amazing woman.
A CHAPTER FROM “LIFE’S MEANING REVEALED”
In 2005, I came across a woman who would dramatically change my life. She’s a medium/clairvoyant by the name of Lisa Williams. I was looking for characters for potential reality shows. I stumbled across an un-aired pilot of a pseudo-talk show featuring “mystic” types. There was a numerologist (someone who correlates relationships between numbers and coinciding events); a psychic (someone who foretells the future); a tasseographer (someone who tells the future by interpreting patterns in tea leaves); an intuitive (someone who understands or knows something without any direct evidence); and Lisa, a medium (someone who talks to the dead) and clairvoyant (someone with the ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through extrasensory perception). Yep, so Lisa talks to the dead!
As I watched the tape, I wasn’t impressed with the mystics on the panel. Most of them were using their abilities to predict the future. But fortunetelling doesn’t make for good TV because there’s no immediate payoff. The viewers don’t get to see if what the mystic predicted would ultimately happen. So I was getting disappointed and about to press “eject.” Then Lisa hit the screen. She immediately took the show hostage. She stood up, insisting she was hearing from the spirit of an 18-year-old boy who died unexpectedly. She looked out into the audience.
“Does anyone recognize this boy?”
Several members of a family in the audience raised their hands saying that they could identify with the boy. Lisa went on to reveal that the boy had been shot. Family members confirmed that yes, he had been shot. Lisa said it appears it was a suicide. Again, the family agreed. But then Lisa said something no one expected.
“He’s telling me he was murdered. It wasn’t a suicide.”
The family members burst into tears. Lisa then asked them:
“He’s saying ‘everyone thinks I killed myself. But I didn’t’. Can you understand that?”
The boy’s mother said yes through her tears. They had always suspected that her son was murdered but there was no evidence and no way to prove it.
Lisa walked down from the stage and into the audience where the boy’s mother was standing. She put her arms around the woman. Lisa asked:
“Do you know who Tom is?”
The woman immediately began sobbing again.
“Yes. That’s who we believe killed him.”
“Tom is the one who killed him. He keeps saying Tom; it was Tom.”
The scene was heartbreaking. Everyone in the audience was crying as Lisa hugged the boys’ mother in a hopeless display of naked grief. Heartbreaking, yes, but as a TV producer, I knew it also to be breathtaking. This was incredible television. Watching Lisa, I knew I could sell a TV show around her! I was stoked.
Let me explain something to you… Reality shows are all about “characters”. Whether it’s Kim Kardashian or Honey Boo Boo, these programs live or die on the personalities whose shoulders carry the show. And when it comes to TV characters, Lisa is the total package. She’s a Brit with spiky, multi-colored hair, she has a sexy Julie Andrews accent, she’s both classy and a bit brassy, her personality is bubbly and bright, and best of all for me, she jumps off the TV screen. She instinctively knows how to play to the cameras – and that’s something that is tough to teach.
I did a Google search for Lisa, found her number and rang her up the very next day at her home in Birmingham, England. When she answered the phone, the first thing she said to me was that she was expecting my call. I laughed… but was immediately struck by the feeling that she was completely serious. My only encounter with a medium/clairvoyant, or for that matter, any type of psychic, was meeting John Edward in the makeup room when I ran E! News. He was the host of a Sci-Fi network show Crossing Over With John Edward. He was booked as an in-studio guest on E! News Live. He came across to me as a genuinely nice guy. The format of his show consisted of him in an auditorium with a crowd of people. Spirits would talk to him – these spirits being dead friends or relatives of audience members in the room – and John would pass along their messages. This format was very similar to what Lisa had done in the “mystic” pilot I had watched, but John was the first to do it on the air. And because he was first, he had a lot of critics attacking what he did. There were allegations that he had prior knowledge of the people he was reading and was accused of using an array of quick and sometimes general guesses to create the impression of psychic ability. The claims were baseless… but there are always people waiting in the wings to tear other people down. At that time, the controversy didn’t affect me one way or the other since I wasn’t doing any shows in the “psychic” space.
Now that I found Lisa, though, I knew I had to come up with a fresh format that wasn’t just a copy of what John does, sitting in an auditorium doing readings. I also wanted to make the format “critic-proof” so that no one could accuse Lisa of perpetrating a fraud. So my idea was to take the show to the street. My producing partner, Andrew, and I got $60k together and decided to shoot a full-blown pilot on the streets of Manhattan.
When I finally met Lisa face to face, she was everything I hoped she would be. Like Andrew and me, she was excited and raring to go! At our Midtown hotel, I gave her a very generic rundown of all the shoots we were planning for the week – withholding all the specific details so she couldn’t be accused of secretly doing prep work. This was the plan and the details I shared with her: we would start with Lisa walking around Times Square, going up to strangers on the street and giving them off-the-cuff readings right there. We would then do a few private readings in my hotel room with several people I found who had unfinished business with someone “on the other side.” We would then visit a few of New York’s landmarks to see what kind of spiritual activity Lisa finds there. And finally, we would visit a supposedly haunted mansion and see if Lisa could contact its famous but long-dead owner. That was the extent of what Lisa would be told about our week.
The events that followed would require an entire book in itself to do it justice. Since there’s so much more to cover, I’m going to bullet point the key events that developed during the entire week in New York, starting with our “ambush readings” in Times Square:
- Lisa encountered an Australian man named Rodney who was vacationing in New York. As they began chatting, Lisa informed him that his grandparents were right here by his side. His grandfather’s name was Christopher. Lisa figured that out because the spirit showed him a St. Christopher medal. His grandmother’s name is Mary. His grandmother shared how Rodney used to play piano, and he sang, even though he was a bad singer. Rodney’s reaction to Lisa’s reading: “That’s incredible.”
- Lisa encounters Kristin in Times Square. She tells Kristin that a friend of hers wants to tell her he’s sorry. He had committed suicide. As Lisa described it, his death was very quick like “bang” – with Kristin nodding her head. He wants Kristin to tell his mom that he’s OK and to stop worrying about him. He also says he was like a big brother to Kristin and he treasured their time together. And then this: “He’s giving me his name, John!” Kristin’s jaw dropped. She was speechless.
We put Lisa into a van and began driving to Lower Manhattan for one of our “landmark” shoots.
- As the van splished and splashed in the pouring rain, Lisa discovers that a six-year-old girl (in spirit) has jumped into the van with us. She’s here to guide Lisa on the journey she’s about to take. Lisa soon begins to cry when she realizes where we are. The van pulls up to Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks from four years earlier. Lisa is unable to talk and wants the cameras turned off.
- A while later, Lisa gets out of the van. She says she is bombarded by spirits who want to speak with her. She says these spirits are saying they are not angry and don’t want revenge on the 9/11 attackers. These spirits have moved on.
- Lisa then lets the little girl lead her to the place where a man named “Jeff” had died at Ground Zero. Lisa describes what he heard and saw before he was swallowed up in rubble.
- Lisa walks the perimeter of the ground zero memorial site, then stops unexpectedly. Lisa says the little girl is telling her that Jeff’s name is right above her on the plaque. This plaque with all the names of those killed here stretched around the entire site. So Lisa suddenly stopping to find Jeff’s name on the plaque right there in the location the little girl said it was, was stunning.
- A week later, I did some research on Jeff. It turns out Jeff had a younger sister, Angela, who died in a car accident when she was six-years-old. Angela was the little girl leading Lisa around the site of her brother’s death.
We were permitted to tour Grand Central Station unescorted. This was our second “landmark” location.
- We took an elevator and some stairs and eventually found ourselves in areas of Grand Central Station that were not open to the public. Lisa immediately identifies the spirit of a former employee who jumped to his death from a balcony near the stairwell we were on. While Lisa was telling his story, we were suddenly surrounded by security guards and the building manager who let us roam freely. It seems this suicide was kept from the media and never reported, and they would prefer we keep it that way. Then they threw us out. Thank you for keeping our secrets. Now get out! (This scene was not used in the pilot).
The following day, we began shooting one-on-one readings in my hotel room. These are acquaintances of mine who had unfinished business with people in spirit. Lisa had never met them and knew nothing of whom they hoped to speak to in spirit or what they wanted to find out.
- First up was 70-year-old Rita. Unbeknownst to Lisa, Rita’s now-deceased father had molested some of Rita’s nieces (his granddaughters) when the kids were very young. Rita is desperate to know if her mother, Mary, who has also passed, knew what Rita’s father was doing while this was happening. The reading started with Lisa and Rita sitting across from each other. First to come through was Mary, Rita’s mother. Lisa said that Mary was preventing a figure who was behind her from coming through. Lisa then realized that the spirit behind Mary was Rita’s father. Lisa said, “She’s not letting your father come through. It’s like she’s mad at him”. Rita replied, “She should be.” And then, Lisa started yelling very loudly, “I didn’t know, I didn’t know, I didn’t know.” Even though Lisa had no idea what Mary didn’t know, Rita did. She broke down in tears.
- Janice sat down with Lisa. She told Lisa she wanted to make contact with Stephanie, Janice’s daughter who died shortly after birth 30-some years ago. Lisa closed her eyes and tried to find Stephanie in spirit. But she was unable to make contact. “I can’t seem to find her in spirit,” Lisa told Janice. Janice was saddened because she so wanted to talk to her daughter. Lisa then asked Janice if she had given birth to any other children after Stephanie. Yes, Janice gave birth to a healthy baby girl a year later. “Oh,” Lisa said, “That’s why I can’t find her. The soul of Stephanie has been reincarnated into the body of your next daughter. So you’ve still got your baby”, Lisa said almost matter-of-factly. Janice broke into tears of joy when Lisa explained she never actually lost her daughter.
- While Lisa was doing a reading with Barry in my hotel room, she suddenly became baffled. “I have to stop. Someone is coming through with a motorcycle.” Barry didn’t know anyone with a motorcycle. And no one else in the room, the photographers, makeup, hair, lighting or audio people knew what Lisa was talking about. Then Lisa called over my producing partner, Andrew. “No, Andrew, he seems to be talking to you. He says he’s a friend of yours and he rides a motorcycle.” Andrew said he had only one friend who rode a motorcycle and that he wasn’t dead. So we dismissed it and moved on with Barry’s reading.
- An hour later, Andrew received a phone call from Los Angeles. He was told his friend, the guy who rides motorcycles, was just killed in a traffic accident.
The final shoot for the week was at an extraordinary marble mansion from the “Guilded Age” located on Long Island. It was still pouring down rain the night we arrived. And let me tell you, this ghost hunt we were on made me feel as though I were in a real-life episode of Scooby Doo – complete with unexpected scares, vortexes, creaking sounds and ghosts galore. I rented the house for the shoot. The owners were told we were doing an “architectural study” documentary, so while they hung out in the kitchen area, we were upstairs lighting candles, holding a séance and being threatened by ghosts.
- Our guide was Monica, a historian who had written extensively on the mansion and had lived there for a year. As soon as Lisa walked in, she heard a man shouting at her very clearly, “You’re in my house! Get out!” She determined this man was very influential in his day, he enjoyed being rich, and he enjoyed rubbing it in people’s faces.
- Lisa located a room where this man imprisoned his wife for many years, saying she was mentally ill. Lisa could see him laughing as he listened to his wife’s screams down the long hallway. Monica verified that he had locked up his wife in the mansion.
- Lisa then determined a man secretly supplying alcohol to the mansion was murdered in the labyrinth of tunnels underneath the estate during Prohibition. Monica confirmed the man’s body wasn’t discovered until sometime in the 1970’s.
- Lisa identified some bedroom furniture the man owned that once belonged to Napoléon.
- Lisa also received other information on this ghost – information that Monica was aware of but she knew had never published and was unavailable to the public: In life, the man was deaf in his left ear. When Lisa said this, Monica nearly fainted and shouted: “I need some Valium.” Lisa then told Monica the man had a limp and believed he was the reincarnation of Napoléon. Monica was beside herself now, amazed at how Lisa could know this correct information. Lisa was unable to get the name of the man who built the place – we eventually told her he was Frank Winfield Woolworth, founder of the dime store dynasty. The house is known as Winfield Hall.
- Lisa said she sees animal sacrifices being performed in Woolworth’s study as part of black magic rituals. Lisa explained that Woolworth was obsessed with Egyptian iconography, which Monica confirmed. Lisa even revealed subtle upside-down pyramid designs in the grand ballroom, which Monica had never noticed. Monica had to sit down after that one. While in the ballroom, the lights flickered continually, something Monica says has never happened before.
- Lisa was able to identify the bedroom of Woolworth’s middle daughter, (but not her name), Edna Woolworth Hutton (mother of Barbara Hutton, who would become known as America’s “Poor Little Rich Girl”). Edna committed suicide, though not in the house. But Lisa became very dizzy when she accidentally stepped into a vortex that was swirling in Edna’s bedroom.
- While walking down the main hall of the west wing, Lisa and my producing partner Andrew were both startled by a ghost. I was with them but unfortunately saw nothing. Nothing appears on the videotape either, but Andrew was freaked the rest of the evening. Lisa insisted Andrew had just “popped his cherry” by seeing his first ghost. My cherry, however, remains unpopped.
- Finally, though impossible to confirm without a bulldozer, Lisa said Mr. Woolworth was secretly buried in an Egyptian sarcophagus on the grounds of his estate – the sarcophagus rests inside an inverted pyramid.
The visit to the Woolworth Mansion was awesome. It was a freaky-fun finale to the most mystical week of my life. As I predicted, the pilot was equally astonishing. Honestly, it was the best one-hour of TV I have ever produced in my career. Unfortunately, it will never be seen on air because we didn’t shoot it for broadcast clearance. But with the help of our agents at Williams Morris, Andrew and I sold Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead to the first network we pitched it to. It aired for two seasons in the U.S. and around the world, making Lisa Williams a household name globally.
Shooting two seasons of Life Among The Dead with Lisa was very similar to shooting the pilot episode. She continued to dazzle me – and the cameras – with things she couldn’t have possibly known. I know. I was the one in control of the information. I want to re-state that Lisa was never told anything that would give her any advantage or advanced knowledge of the people, places, and events she was going to encounter while shooting the series. I remember when editing the shows, I would often comment that viewers simply aren’t going to believe Lisa is real because she’s so good at communicating with Spirits. I mean, unlike others who talk to the dead, Lisa doesn’t say things like, “His name starts with a ‘J’, ‘John?’ ‘Jeremy’? ‘Jeff…'”, you know, fishing until she got the right response from the person she was reading. She’s the real deal. I have absolutely no doubts about that. I am so blessed that she and I connected as we were meant to in this life.
My book reveals my journey post-Lisa. I began investigating reincarnation, and meeting with “channelers” and discovering a spiritual entity named Seth. Whatever leftovers from my “Catholic” upbringing that remained in me from my childhood was now completely gone. I became angry that I was never exposed to this spiritual side of things that ultimately caused me to throw out nearly everything I was taught and nearly everything I believed in. That part of the journey is detailed in the book.
Unfortunately, I cannot play any scenes from the pilot for you. It wasn’t shot for for broadcast so there were no releases or licenses for the people, the shots, and the music used. I truly believe that pilot was the most incredible, awe-inspiring piece of television I ever produced. And I’m so happy to have produced it with Lisa and my business partner Andrew Yani. Id you’ve read this far in the post, I’M guessing you want to see Lisa in action. Here’s the premiere episode of Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead as it aired on Lifetime in 2006.