A Medium Rare
On a crisp autumn night, 25 people are led though the Sleepy Hollow-like setting of Historic Cold Spring Village on its Ghost Walk, held each Thursday and Saturday night in season. Among them are believers, thrill seekers, and even skeptics. Their guide, psychic medium Bob Bitting, walks them to the small, two-story Corson Hand House, built in 1830 by ship builder Aaron Corson. The ghost seekers gather before the unoccupied house, intent on Bob’s every word as he maintains a spiritual focus in an attempt to open communications with the spirits who have been known to inhabit this and other structures in the early 19th-century village. With his back to the darkened house, Bob awaits communication from beyond “the veil,” the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds. Suddenly, the darkness is pierced by a brilliant flash of light through a second-floor window. The group’s collective gasp crescendos into muttered excitement and nervous laughter before falling to stunned silence at Bob’s explanation. Amid the faint trill of the season’s waning cricket chirps and the soft rustle of dry leaves, Bob discloses that there is no electricity on the second floor of this 190-year old house. The flash, he explains, is known as spirit light, a metaphysical phenomenon. Contact has been made.
Spirit lights are but one of the many otherworldly encounters experienced on the Ghost Walk. “People are never scared,” Bob said of the curious. “They’re intrigued because of the overwhelming evidence they leave with. I encourage people to take pictures and send me their results. My emails are flooded with photographic evidence from each group. Sure, there are many explainable photographic glitches and lens flares, but I have seen Hanna Leaming appear in the window of the house where she lived in the 1850s.”
Not all the evidence of spirit activity is limited to visual proof. During a summer 2019 Ghost Walk, a strong citrus-like fragrance pervaded the air, enthralling the group. Suddenly a glowing tornado of mist appeared at the center of the crowd and quickly dissipated along with the mysterious fragrance.
Bob has been associated with Cold Spring Village since 1998 as a tour guide—and as a carpenter on many of the detailed restoration projects in its collection of late 18th- and early 19th-century structures relocated to create the living-history attraction.
“These buildings hold the energy of so many events, both good and bad,” Bob said. “Like a record that holds sound, buildings and objects can retain energy of events. Many times, there may not be a spirit appearance, but the energy of an event is being replayed. Like our physical world, occurrences in the spiritual sphere are not always ghosts. However, there are spirits who do come back to the places they loved. Some know they are dead and are afraid to cross over to the next life. The energy of the medium along with the energy of the crowd can become a beacon for these spirits.”
Bob Bitting has been known as a respected professional psychic for over 40 years in both in-person sessions as well as one of the highest-rated phone psychics on Keen, the world’s largest network for psychic readings. His services have been successfully enlisted by those looking for a piece of lost jewelry and by law enforcement officials, with whom he’s worked confidentially on missing persons cases. He’s conducted over 20,000 phone and online readings alone, not to mention countless in-person readings.
“Middle-aged women,” Bob said, “make up 90 percent of my clientele. Women are more emotional than men and always want to know about relationship matters. The few men clients I have want to know about career-related issues. I also have clients who are psychic junkies, and I have to treat them carefully and compassionately because like any addiction, there is danger to it. The sad thing is that the world of psychics has many charlatans who take advantage of those dependent on them. Too often I find myself warning people of the many traps and tricks that could exploit them in a vulnerable moment.”
Bob was quick to follow up his warning by saying his psychic and medium colleagues are honest and truthful. He cites local psychics Craig McManus and Scott Henry as two genuine and respectable men in the field.
Only recently did Bob’s work transition to that of mediumship. “All mediums are psychic but not all psychics are mediums,” Bob explained. “Psychics can connect with the energy of a person and tell them the probabilities of what might happen in the future. Mediums talk directly to those who have passed beyond. I have always had the ability to do that but only in the past five years began to be a medium professionally.”
“Looking back at my childhood,” Bob said, “the first indications of clairvoyance were happening at the age of two and three when I would see faces appear out the window. As I got older, I saw spirits in our house either as flashes of light or in near-physical form. Those were my first psychic experiences.”
In many families, such paranormal experiences in a child might be dismissed as an overactive imagination or seen and suppressed as a force of evil. But Bob’s unusual traits blossomed through the nurturing of close family members who exhibited similar abilities.
“I come from a family of what I call hereditary witches. My grandmother and I used to communicate with spirits through the Ouija board.” Bob said, “She used to attend a spiritualist church, and was well aware of worlds beyond this one. My mother had telekinetic abilities and when she was angry could instantly bend spoons and move objects simply by looking at them.”
Bob’s telekinetic abilities have been more limited than his mother’s and at times involuntary. “When I’m angry,” Bob said, “electrical stuff goes crazy and street lights go out. If I’m raising my energy to open communications with spirits, especially when I am doing the Ghost Walk at Cold Spring Village, it’s common for streetlights to go out. The intensity of the energy I experience is similar to that of an actor who’s about to transform himself into a character—they build up a creative energy and then it’s channeled through them and released on stage. This energy has the ability to affect the physical world around us.”
During the 1960s, ABC’s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows gave daytime television viewers a daily dose of dark paranormal plot twists and atmospheric interiors. Young Bob Bitting was one of the millions of captivated fans who would rush home from school to immerse himself in its realm of vampires and alternate dimensions. Unlike most viewers, Bob saw the show’s fantastic story elements as a recognizable reality with which he was gaining deep familiarity. “That show really brought a lot out in me,” Bob said of the daily drama. “Looking back, it validated many of the experiences and revelations that I realized were unique to me.”
By high school, his divination skills were sharpening as he began to master the ancient art of tarot card reading. Startlingly accurate lunchroom readings for curious classmates soon made Bob the guest of honor at every weekend party as he consulted his peers with sound advice and glimpses into their foreseeable future.
It wasn’t long until Bob’s reputation as a trusted and accurate psychic made him one of the most sought-after seers in the Mid-Atlantic states. During these years, following in his grandmother’s footsteps in the world of spiritualism, he became a practitioner and devoted student of witchcraft. As with his charisma that was garnering clients and seekers, so too was he quickly becoming highly respected among covens for the skill and wisdom he demonstrated in the ancient craft and its disciplines. His time during the 1970s and early 80s were spent under the strict guidance of Reverend Grace Kemelek of the Feri and Horsa Traditions of witchcraft, making Bob, through his initiation, a direct descendant of famed witch Sybil Leek.
In full embrace of his convictions and application of his knowledge, he founded the Church of Ravenstar in 2001. The church is an outreach of the Covenant of Rhiannon, a coven based in the Feri Tradition. “My legal title is Executive Director,” Bob said of his role as Church founder and leader. “My religious title is Priest of Feri. I am one of three priests in New Jersey with this title. Our spiritual lineage is an old and honored one. Cape May County has a very rich but secret history of witchcraft. I was excited to honor that by establishing the Church of Ravenstar here.”
Proud of his church’s rich lineage, Bob remains selective as to how much he discloses about it. “I have a small but active congregation here in Cape May,” Bob said. “The Feri Tradition is a secretive society and there is much we don’t talk about to outsiders. For anyone wanting to join the inner workings of Church of Ravenstar, they must pass a rigid vetting process. On the other hand, anyone who attends any of my channeling sessions is taking part in a Ravenstar event, since my work as a medium is an outreach service of my church duties.”
Bob books his daily schedule with in-person and online readings as well as public channeling events for his growing mediumship work. “A few years ago, a co-worker at Cold Spring whom I’d done a private reading for asked if I’d be interested in doing a mediumship tea at the Village. I was nervous about it at first. I knew I had mediumship abilities but had always been reluctant to fully incorporate it into my work.” To Bob’s and Cold Spring’s delight, the tea was a success, and another was immediately scheduled. “On one of my first public channeling events,” Bob said, “I was able to make direct contact with a family whose son had been shot to death. It was a healing moment of closure for them.”
The popularity of his group channeling sessions quickly grew as offers came from a variety of county venues, including Ostara’s Coffee House in West Cape May and Beachcomber Campground in Lower Township. “One day,” Bob said, “I got a call from Harbor Square Theatre who asked if I would be interested in hosting channeling sessions for audiences of 150 people. I was thrilled.”
As daunting as that may seem, Bob’s approach is one in which each attendee, whether spoken directly to or not, leaves with enough evidence that they feel fulfilled in knowing that those who have passed beyond are more accessible than one might think.
“I raise my spiritual frequency to meet them,” Bob explained. “The spirits lower theirs and we meet in the middle, hence the name medium. I feel a vibration through my body when they enter this plane. I then see a bank of mist surrounding me. Shortly after that I am in contact with the spirits as they cross through the mist.”
Such was the case last winter while looking out at an audience of over 100 people. Bob felt drawn to a woman at the back of Harbor Square Theatre. He told her a figure was standing behind her whose name was Madilyn. The stunned woman stared at Bob with both surprise and comfort as the silent audience awaited Bob’s next words. “I told her I saw Madilyn holding a red book with gold lettering,” Bob said. “I told her it was some kind of prayer or religious book. Without saying a word, the woman reached into her handbag and produced an old red hymnal with gold lettering that she said belonged to her grandmother, Madilyn. She said she wasn’t sure she believed in any of this before she came, but had brought the book with the slim hope of contacting her grandmother.”
Contact from those who have died can often come to Bob in a moment so unexpected, it hurls him head-on into a supercharged onslaught of images and information. At moments in which the supernatural energy is channeled through him so intensely, the sudden instant of mediumship is paired with heightened psychic visions. This occurred five years ago when a man had stopped by Bob’s house to pick up some items for a local charity.
Bob and the man engaged in cordial conversation for a moment while they stood in his living room. Just as the man was about to leave, an image of a man came to Bob like a flash of lightning. “Your father is here with us,” Bob said. “He wants you to find the ring. He wants his grandson to have it.”
The man told Bob that 20 years earlier, his father had lost the wedding ring which he had never taken off. For years, futile searches for the cherished ring had only frustrated and saddened his father, who was ultimately buried without it.
Bob began to see visions of where the ring could be found. Wanting to capture the images he saw before they were gone, Bob grabbed a junk mail envelope from his kitchen table and on the reverse side began to draw a diagram. He was uncertain as to what he was even sketching until the man recognized it as the map of his parents’ property. Bob asked what the structures were as he sketched them in accurate detail. The stunned man identified every detail as they were drawn. Bob then drew three concrete steps leading to the door of an additional structure on the property. “Right here,” Bob told the man as he drew a heavy circle just in front of the three steps, “right here is where the ring is.” Bob handed the man the envelope and said, “Now, go get it and give it to your son.” Prior to this psychic episode, Bob had no knowledge of the man’s father, the ring, or the property.
The man did not look for the ring, feeling that further attempts to find it after so long would be futile. The spot that Bob indicated in front of the concrete steps was on a lawn that had been combed through countless times 20 years earlier. Even if the ring had been lost there, two decades of weather, human activity and landscaping would make it impossible to find. Nevertheless, he took the map home with him, where it was shuffled into a pile of papers and forgotten for five years.
In May of 2020, the man happened upon the envelope while cleaning out a desk. He mentioned to his grown son that a psychic had told him the ring was in the yard. The son, who was unaware of the location indicated by Bob, enlisted the help of a friend with a metal detector to search the entire property. One evening just before dusk, after unearthing a plethora of tarnished coins, rusty nails, and old bottle caps, the metal detector blipped and indicated something much different in front of the concrete steps. The men carefully began to dig with a small spade. Ten inches below the lawn, in the precise spot indicated on Bob’s drawing, the deceased man’s grandson found the ring.
Outside of the Cold Spring Village Ghost Walks, Bob’s public appearances have either been scaled back or postponed due to COVID-19 safety regulations. But that came as no surprise to Bob. “Last September,” Bob said, “I told an audience of 100 people that something global was coming in 2020 that would disrupt daily life and routine as we knew it. After this September, I see something else coming that is big. I can’t say exactly what it is, but it’s big and it’s something spiritual. I see it coming from above. Just keep looking toward the skies. Look toward the skies.”