Barb Mallon, 39, of Centreville, has a normal life during the day — taking care of her two children who are 7 and 4. But once her husband Mike comes home from work as a Cox Communications executive, she starts her job as a psychic medium for people who want to contact spirits who have moved beyond this world.
"I like to say I'm a mom by day, and a medium by night," said Mallon from her London Towne townhouse living room wafting with burning incense. Her two boys run around the house playing with Spider Man boxing gloves as the Cartoon Network is on the background on the TV.
MALLON EXPLAINS that being a median is a step beyond being a psychic. Being "psychic is just being intuitive and being able to connect with someone's energy field. A median goes past just you (your energy field) and connects with the other side."
Mallon looks like an average mom in her jeans and green tank top as she feeds her children lunch. The only clue to her other life is a tattoo of a raven on her right arm.
Mallon says she mostly connects with spirits who want to tell her clients that they are OK. She says the first type of spirits are relatives or relations that are always around, helping guide people's lives but not guides per say. The other spirits are called spirit guides.
"There is one spirit guide with us from birth till death and others come and guide us also," said Mallon, "That's who I get my psychic readings from."
Mallon does at least 90 percent of her business with clients over the phone. "As long as I have the person's name or photo I can do it, because spirit is energy and it can connect to any distance," said Mallon.
One of her clients, Vickie Trendergast, 47, of Sterling was "absolutely blown away" by her reading over the phone. "She brought all these people through, and over the phone, it was incredible," said Trendergast.
Mallon uses her Web site, http://www.barbmallon.com, to connect with clients from all over the world, including London and Ireland. "As long as they have a telephone I can connect," she said.
Once Mallon has connected with a spirit there are five ways the spirit can communicate with her, she said. Mallon calls these the five clairs. The first, and most well known, is clairvoyance or clear seeing — meaning that Mallon will get "flashes of pictures or movies." The second is clairscentence or clear feeling, that of knowing something by feeling. Thirdly is clairaliance or clear hearing, meaning Mallon will hear names or sentences. "It's kind of like you're reading to yourself, you'll hear it in the background," said Mallon. The fourth and fifth clairs — clairgustance or clear taste and clairambience or clear smell — are less common but Mallon still sometimes receives messages through them. "If someone has been shot I might taste lead or if someone smoked I may smell cigarette smoke," she says.
MALLON MANY times will connect with animals spirits too. "Animals have souls. They give me the same things: emotions, flashes of pictures, symbols," Mallon said.
Even though Mallon connects with so many varying spirits, clients should not be afraid of connecting with bad spirits. "I have my own set of [spirit] guides that are like a filter system for me," said Mallon, "[The readings are] only for the best intentions. What you put out you get back."
If Mallon was connecting for greed or personal reasons she says she would get bad spirits coming through but she makes it clear that she is not. "It doesn't matter what religion or belief you have. It's more for the healing."
And that's exactly what Mallon believes her readings do for people. The readings "connect people so that they know their [dead relations] are OK," said Mallon, "especially suicides." In many beliefs, she says the spirits of those who commit suicide are stuck in limbo. But Mallon can connect with them and this comforts many who seek her skills.
Trendergast says that "after her son died she had a bunch of questions and started wanting answers." Mallon’s reading helped her find those answers. "Barb [Mallon] is real thorough and interesting, she does awesome meditations. She knew things about my family that I didn’t know."
Another client of Mallon's, Karen Ferguson, 26, who works at Loudoun Hospital, said that she thinks "it's kind of a peace of mind thing. Just confirming that they are OK."
It doesn't work on everyone though. "I can't connect with everybody," Mallon admits, "I might not be the right medium, they might not want me to connect, there are lots of reasons." However, most of the time it comes easily to her.
"I turn it off and on," she said. And even if you don't connect on your first try you can try again; if no connection is made in the end, then the reading is free of charge.
Mallon did not always have this gift, though she has always been interested in the metaphysical world. Before she decided to be a psychic medium she worked as a secretary and a hairdresser. "About 10 years ago I got into Tarot work. Then I watched a medium work and knew I had to do it," says Mallon. Afterwards she began to learn how to open her mind's eye and connect with the spirits that have moved on. Contradictory to what most people think, Mallon says "you aren't born with it, you have to develop it," and that is exactly what Mallon did.
"I started practicing on friends and family and eventually started doing free readings. I was spending lots of time doing that so I decided I would have to start charging [money]," at which point she gave up hairdressing and made being a medium her full-time job (along with being a mother).
IT WAS EASY for Mallon to accept that there were spirits to connect to because she says she came from a very metaphysical family. "We used to go to battlefields and see ghosts and all start running away," she laughed.
Even though Mallon has lived in London Town her whole life she still feels uncomfortable discussing her business with people.
"I can't go to career day at my kid's school and say 'I speak with dead people,'" she says. "I don't talk about it unless someone asks what I do. It's hard unless they show an interest. It's a very hard area to live in — conservative Virginia."
However in recent years, thanks to TV shows like "Crossing Over With John Edward," psychic mediums are receiving a lot more credibility.
Mallon is certified by the American Association of Pro Psychics Inc., a government recognized organization. She had to pass an extensive test and perform three readings in order to become certified.
With the wider acceptance of the spiritual world, Mallon is finding it easier to discuss what she does.
"There is a huge, huge new awareness in spirituality," said husband Mike. "People know there's something beyond what they can see. It's a huge thing for everybody."
Mallon offers a variety of reading styles — from full-length private readings to classes and group spirit nights (see sidebar).
"I got about six of us together and we did a private session. It was just amazing," said Ferguson, "None of us knew what to expect but Barb explained the whole process when we sat down."
Mallon says she gets lots of skeptics coming in too. "I've had FBI agents, very skeptical people, all sorts come in and next week they bring their whole family."
"The spirit people come because they love you. They want to connect, they want to come," said Barb Mallon. "That's why there's such a healing process that takes place."