On a recent Thursday evening, a group of eight women gathered in a small circle at one end of the dim-lit Filibuster Lounge at the Best Western White House Inn in Bangor. The women socialized quietly as they settled down with cocktails and soft drinks.

Then the group’s attention turned to medium Jeannie Hopkins of Brewer, who gives regular demonstrations at the Bangor lounge. She was the reason the women were there. Petite, blonde, dressed in flowing black and ornamented with gold jewelry, Hopkins fussed with a small, clip-on microphone before stepping into the circle and addressing the small group.

“I am not a psychic,” she told them. “I never tell the future. I don’t believe in that. I believe you make your own future.”

Rather, she said, she invites “Spirit” to enter her consciousness, where she is able to establish contact with those who have “crossed over” into death and deliver their messages of healing, hope and love to the living.

Hopkins, 47, is an evidential medium. She says she acts as a sort of liaison between the spirits of people who have died and the grieving and questioning loved ones left behind, providing evidence to demonstrate authenticity and ensure she’s connecting the right spirit to the right seeker.

What kind of evidence? Sometimes it’s a physical trait such as the gender, age or appearance of the person whose spirit she is channeling; sometimes it’s a personality trait, a behavior, an illness or an incident. In a setting like that at the Filibuster, with several people in the audience, Hopkins describes what she can sense of each spirit that shows up, asking yes-or-no questions and gradually homing in on the right participant.

“I have a gentleman,” Hopkins said hesitantly, standing quietly with her eyes half-closed, a quizzical look on her face. “He is tall. Or maybe … is he concerned about posture?”

Later, she said, “I have a female. Is she a grandmother? Or like a grandmother? She has a rosary, or she is looking for her rosary. Did she give you her rosary?”

And, dabbing with a tissue, she said: “My eye has been weeping since I started tonight. Does someone here have a connection on the other side with some kind of an eye problem?”

There was laughter, but then someone said, yes, she lost a loved one with cataracts.

In each instance, Hopkins provided more information, a little at a time, to responding group members, eventually fixing one person with the full focus of the spirit’s message.

“You’ve been carrying a heavy burden,” she told an emotional woman who had identified the spirit as a stern but loving male figure from her past.

“It’s a very heavy burden,” the woman agreed, tears streaming down her face.

“Do you understand that there’s nothing you can do? That you can set this burden down and move forward?” Hopkins asked, still speaking for the spirit. “The best thing is to move forward.”

The woman nodded, wiping her eyes with a tissue. The spirit gave a few more more bits of admonition and advice.

“Now I leave you with his love and blessings,” Hopkins said, and she moved on to the next encounter.

For about two hours, Hopkins held the group’s attention, eliciting more tears and some laughter. The spirit encounters — there were four or five, possibly more — were kindly and compassionate, urging forgiveness, expressing approval, cracking an occasional joke. Everyone went home smiling. They had each paid $20 for this experience and gotten their money’s worth.

Group member Jo Anne Horn, 60, of Hampden said she’s been fascinated with the world of mediums and psychics for about 10 years.

“I get personal readings all the time. It’s all very positive,” she said.

Horn has gone so far as to take classes in becoming a medium. She has practiced in her personal life and at spiritualist camps.

“Once I was able to get the name of another student’s dog that had died,” she said. “I described the dog and said his name was something like Skippy or Tippy. It was Skippy.” Another time, “I felt very strongly the image of a young boy coming through. He showed me an orange Adidas sneaker.”

The boy turned out to the nephew of another student’s boyfriend, she said. The athletic youngster had died at age 12.

Horn belongs to an established church congregation in Bangor but feels no conflict between her faith in organized religion and her interest in the occult.

“It’s never scary,” Horn said. “But when these random thoughts come into my head, especially when I’m quiet, I know those are Spirit.”

Bunny Barclay, 67 of Holden said she has consulted Hopkins several times recently “to ask some specific questions about some specific people.” Barclay feels most people have had some experience with the spirit world, though they may not recognize it. “I think we all have the ability if you want to develop it, if you stay open and receptive,” she said.

Hopkins, who grew up in Ashland, runs a business called Light and Love Readings out of her home in Brewer. She offers individual and group consultations, classes and workshops as well as “gallery” demonstrations such as the one at the Filibuster.

Hopkins tuned in to the spirit world about four years ago, after a series of deaths in her family.

“It was trauma that brought me to this place,” she said.

When she learned that her beloved mother-in-law had being seeing a medium before she died, she sought the medium out for solace and closure. She has found both, she said, in ongoing communications from her mother-in-law and others on the “other side.”

“This started out being for me, about healing myself,” she said. “But then I was like a sponge, I wanted to learn everything I could so I could help others the way it helped me.”

She has never encountered a malevolent spirit seeking to inflict emotional or spiritual pain, she said. She believes life circumstances distort human personalities and relationships, that the death of the body strips away evil and restores clarity and compassion to the spirit. That’s why the messages she channels are unfailingly positive and kindly, and why people in pain seek her out for guidance, resolution and reassurance. She doesn’t mind skeptics, so long as they’re open to the possibilities she offers and not just trying to prove her wrong.

“Everyone should be skeptical,” she said, so they can see with their own eyes that her practice is not built on deception.

“I just do what resonates with me,” she said. “It’s all just simple and common sense. It’s always positive and always loving. People feel different when they leave. They feel better.”

Meg Haskell

Meg Haskell is a curious second-career journalist with two grown sons, a background in health care and a penchant for new experiences. She lives in Stockton Springs. Email her at mhaskell@bangordailynews.com.