Advertisement

In Gulfport, a holiday psychic channels messages from the other side

The holidays can be lonely without our lost loved ones, psychic medium Victor Paruta knows.
 
Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, performs at Catherine Hickman Theatre on Friday, Dec. 15, 2023 in Gulfport.
Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, performs at Catherine Hickman Theatre on Friday, Dec. 15, 2023 in Gulfport. [ JENNIFER GLENFIELD | Times ]
Published Dec. 27, 2023

GULFPORT — Victor Paruta had been taking a walk that December Friday, savoring the afternoon sunshine, when spirits started contacting him ahead of schedule.

“A couple of dead guys showed up early,” Paruta, 66, told the crowd at the Catherine A. Hickman Theater that night.

More than 100 people filled the room — some skeptical, most ready to believe — for the psychic medium’s holiday show. They had loved ones on the other side, messages they hoped to hear from the spirits Paruta said he could summon.

One of the visions looked elderly, Paruta said, and incredibly earnest. The man’s fingers were crossed.

Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, sensed "archery," a "bow" and a "bridge" when speaking with Cindy Cole. Cole was born in Broken Bow, Nebraska. Paruta said he sensed a "muscular figure" behind her, whom Cole believed to be her father. "It was wonderful just to know he's here," said Cole.
Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, sensed "archery," a "bow" and a "bridge" when speaking with Cindy Cole. Cole was born in Broken Bow, Nebraska. Paruta said he sensed a "muscular figure" behind her, whom Cole believed to be her father. "It was wonderful just to know he's here," said Cole. [ JENNIFER GLENFIELD | Times ]

“Please,” Paruta said the spirit had begged, “My daughter and granddaughter will be there.”

Another spirit was wearing a white football jersey with yellow numbers.

He appeared to be signing autographs. Or maybe he was coaching?

Paruta said he welcomed them both, promised to do his best.

“I think of dead people as being in the next room,” Paruta said onstage, smiling. “They’re just through a door, hovering, waiting to get that call.”

⋅⋅⋅

Almost everyone in the audience had lost someone: a mom, a husband, a child. They were searching, hoping for a sign, some sort of reassurance that their loved one was not just gone.

During the holidays, the psychic said, spirits are more likely to be called — and respond. They don’t want to be left out of family gatherings, he said. They’re drawn toward the energy of everyone together. He senses them, hears them, feels a responsibility to connect them to the ones they left behind.

A white-haired man at the theater swore he didn’t believe in ghosts, didn’t want to come. But his boyfriend had begged him. On the way to the show, he had prayed to his grandmother, “If you’re out there, come through tonight.”

A blond woman had seen Paruta before, and no spirits spoke to her. But the messages others had received had moved her. She longed to hear from her boyfriend, a New York City firefighter who died on Sept. 11. She said, “I just want to know he’s OK.”

Sometimes spirits visit our world on their own, Paruta explained. Others have to be coaxed. And some, for a variety of reasons, refuse to respond.

“Our spirits live on,” Paruta said slowly. “And they can come back, reincarnated into other forms. We just have to be willing to receive them.”

Tonight, he explained, he would be passing on clues as they came. When something sounds familiar, he said, raise your hand.

Planning your weekend?

Planning your weekend?

Subscribe to our free Top 5 things to do newsletter

We’ll deliver ideas every Thursday for going out, staying home or spending time outdoors.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

⋅⋅⋅

Paruta doesn’t mind doubters. He’s not trying to convince anyone or sell anything. Everyone, he believes, has the ability to receive psychic messages.

He first heard the word “ghost” in church, when he was 5. Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Paruta’s parents had immigrated to Cleveland after World War II, refugees from Ukraine. They brought him and his three siblings to a Ukrainian Orthodox church, where Paruta struggled to understand.

He knew father and son. A ghost, he intuited, was someone dead.

“No wonder everyone there seemed sad,” he said. “They were carrying this burden.” In his teens, he never felt he fit in. He read philosophy, wrote poetry, consulted a Ouija board, trying to conjure answers from the afterlife. He went to an astrologer, a palm reader, a past life regressionist.

He aced classes at Miami University in Ohio, but couldn’t figure out who he was.

In his mid-20s, a friend invited him to a group meditation with a psychic.

For the first time, he said, “I started feeling comfortable in my own skin.”

Attendants left objects on a table for Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, to read during a holiday show at Catherine Hickman Theatre Friday, Dec. 15, 2023 in Gulfport. Object reading is also known as psychometry.
Attendants left objects on a table for Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, to read during a holiday show at Catherine Hickman Theatre Friday, Dec. 15, 2023 in Gulfport. Object reading is also known as psychometry. [ JENNIFER GLENFIELD | Times ]
Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, performs at Catherine Hickman Theatre ahead of the Christmas holiday — a time when, he said, spirits are active.
Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, performs at Catherine Hickman Theatre ahead of the Christmas holiday — a time when, he said, spirits are active. [ JENNIFER GLENFIELD | Times ]

The psychic predicted that Paruta would become a medium himself. But it took years for a spirit to speak through him.

He was 29, in the late 1980s, and his friend Carl had just died of AIDS. Another friend, Joe, was desperately uncomfortable, unsure of what to say to Carl’s mom — who hadn’t known the men were gay. The night before the funeral, Paruta felt he had to phone Joe. “I don’t know why I’m calling,” he said.

Suddenly, as Paruta remembers it, their dead friend started speaking through him, telling Joe what to say, asking him to let his mom know he was alright.

“I was exhausted, amazed,” Paruta said. “That’s when I knew what I was meant to do.”

The next year, he opened a New Age bookstore in Cincinnati, selling candles, crystals and paths to holistic healing. In 1992, in the ballroom of the Quality Inn in Covington, Kentucky, he started a metaphysical expo. The Victory Expo of Light lasted almost 30 years, drawing thousands of seekers.

Paruta had been flying to Florida as a snowbird since 2007. During the pandemic, he made the move permanent, landing in a condo overlooking the Sunshine Skyway bridge.

The December show was his third in Gulfport. He has done group and private readings throughout Florida, billing himself as a medium. But he also sees his role as counselor, confessor, therapist.

“I’m often a last resort,” he said. “I help people find something they’re not able to find anywhere else: comfort, peace, acceptance. Something beyond the ego of this earth.”

When a spirit wants to inflict guilt or revenge, he said, he sends them away. But welcomes those who want to forgive and help heal.

Instead of closing your mind, reasoning away that you’re imagining things, he says, you have to learn to accept the magic.

⋅⋅⋅

“At lunchtime today, on my walk, a man showed me a football scene,” Paruta told the audience. “Since we got to the theater, he’s been showing me cheerleaders. Can anyone here relate to a football player in the spirit world?”

The room was quiet, everyone fidgeting, swiveling in their seats to see who was going to react. Paruta opened his arms, closed his eyes for an instant, then scanned the seats. “Anyone?”

In the back row, a woman timidly raised her hand. “My son played college football?” she offered. “And he was coaching youth football …”

The psychic started nodding. “Yes, yes! And I think this football player was a mama’s boy?”

The woman’s eyes got wide. “He was!”

“He wants me to let you know,” the psychic said. “He’ll be at your house for Christmas dinner.”

As the audience gasped, Paruta plowed on. “Now I’m getting fish, a fisherman, he’s showing me the old Skyway pier?”

The woman shook her head. That wasn’t her son.

“No?” asked the psychic. “Nothing?”

He sipped his water. “Well, since you can’t relate to that, it must be another spirit coming in.”

He saw a chocolate kiss. “Oh my god,” a woman screamed. “We used to go to Hershey, Pennsylvania!”

Cindy New searches for photos of a previous boyfriend who died on 9/11 working as a firefighter. New believes he visited her through Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, at the Gulfport show.
Cindy New searches for photos of a previous boyfriend who died on 9/11 working as a firefighter. New believes he visited her through Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, at the Gulfport show. [ JENNIFER GLENFIELD | Times ]

A kayak, a snare drum, an Air Force uniform? the psychic tried. Nothing. “And I’m getting the name Frank?” Paruta said. “No? Nobody? That’s OK.”

Next, he envisioned a knitted afghan with squares in varying shades of blue. Whoever had made it was trying to talk to its owner.

The white-haired man who hadn’t wanted to come shot up his hand. “That’s my grandmom! She made that blanket and it’s lying on my bed right now!”

The crowd aahed. The psychic beamed. “And she was very frugal?” Paruta asked. “She kept her money in a jar?”

“Yes, yes, she gave that jar to me!” the man cried. “Everything I have started with her.”

Now Paruta was seeing a baby. A big baby, very cute, eating Cheerios. “But he’s up on top of the table for some reason,” the psychic said. “Is that you?”

The man gasped. “That’s our dog! She used to feed him Cheerios on the table. That dog just died.”

Paruta didn’t seem surprised. “Sometimes dogs come through as kids.”

He saw an American flag on a grave. “That’s my grandfather!” the man said. Heard harmonica music. “That’s not even funny. He played the harmonica.” When Paruta smelled bean soup, the man sobbed. “Stop it! We made bean soup all the time.”

“Your grandparents are saying Merry Christmas,” the psychic said. “They’re waving in front of their tree, which is covered in ornate, antique European ornaments. A real tree.”

“It is,” said the man. “It was.”

⋅⋅⋅

Sometimes, it seemed like the psychic was fishing, throwing out generic descriptions that anyone could latch onto: a grandmother writing holiday cards, a young man gambling, an old friend who wanted to go on a drinking binge.

A remorseful son, a strict husband. “That’s every man!” shouted a woman in the front row.

But once Paruta had made a connection with someone, the images got more specific, as if the spirits were guiding him.

“Backstage, I was trying to relax. But I had a couple of dead people who kept coming through,” he told the audience after intermission.

The first was a young fireman. “And there was this huge sense of joy when he crossed over,” the psychic said. “He joined all these other firemen, and they were popping bottles of champagne and celebrating, hugging each other, so glad to be together again.”

In a center seat, halfway back, the blond woman clutched her friend’s hand. “We lost my boyfriend in 9/11,” she said. “There were 343 firefighters who died in New York City that day.”

Paruta shut his eyes. “I’m seeing water, pool floats, but not in a pool.”

The woman’s friend and sister stared at her. “He had a boat on Madeira Beach,” she told the psychic. “We used to float all around Shell Key.”

“Now he’s showing me a grill. And what’s that? A bratwurst? He’s making some sort of joke about body parts. Can you relate to that?”

Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, invited attendants to "receive inspiring messages from beyond ... " during a performance at Catherine Hickman Theatre.
Victor Paruta, a psychic medium, invited attendants to "receive inspiring messages from beyond ... " during a performance at Catherine Hickman Theatre. [ JENNIFER GLENFIELD | Times ]

The woman choked back tears. Her friend started laughing. “There was always this joke about a certain body part…”

“Oh, it is Steve!” her sister squealed. “He came through for you!”

The two-hour show stretched an extra half-hour. Afterward, no one wanted to leave. People cornered the psychic. Could he come to their home? Give a private reading? Reach their dead wife?

Some said he had channeled their relative, but they’d been too embarrassed to raise their hand. Most thanked him for giving them hope, a needed connection, especially during the holidays.

“I don’t know what to say. It’s really sweet, amazing, hard to describe,” said Linda New, the blond woman who hadn’t heard from her firefighter boyfriend in more than two decades.

“He’s OK,” she kept saying. “He is OK. I just knew there’s love and happiness on the other side.”