In October, longtime Atlanta medium Jamie Butler sat cross-legged on a chair in her studio, eyes closed, channeling a 9-year-old spirit named Maitland.
Maitland spent an hour answering questions from fans about their pets. Vita on Facebook wondered if her Chihuahua Charlie was with her in a previous life. “We will pretend time is linear,” Maitland/Butler said, her voice chirpier and more childlike than normal. “Charlie has been with you two times in the past, one in the future and once now. You have four stories with Charlie. They’re not all dogs. Charlie likes to be people too! But no cats!”
Butler, 44, who has lived in Atlanta for 20 years, said spirit Maitland has "this Zen connection to animals." She herself also channels human spirits, but her new Lighter Side Network addresses broader issues as well.
“I want to be the Martha Stewart of spirituality,” she said in her studio off Briarcliff Road in an old steel mill converted to offices. “I teach about meditation, mindfulness, alignment and energy.”
She launched her subscription-only Lighter Side Network in March and now has about 800 regular paid subscribers at $6.99 a month. She and four other hosts tape about six shows a week, all available on demand on her website www.thelightersidenetwork.com. Some of the shows are available through Facebook Live and Instagram Live as well.
Butler said there is still a stigma attached to people who delve into the paranormal, especially in the Bible Belt.
“I go to California and I’m average,” Butler said. “In New York, I’m cool. Here, I’m told I’m doing the devil’s work, that this is an occult. I’ve been uninvited out of classrooms. I’ve had very religious students have a very difficult time and walk out.”
Dr. Karin Luise, one of Butler’s fellow hosts and former Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones’ first wife, said she’s been called a witch to her face: “It’s fear. I used to be there, too. I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t need to convert or judge them.”
To many, Luise said, “there’s only one Christ, one way.” But when she began learning about channeling through Butler four years ago, Luise realized there are multiple ways to communicate with “a beautiful source of love. I’ve aligned with this higher Christ consciousness. I love Christ. We aren’t meant to be punished or suffer. We’re meant to be loved and to love and be open.”
Luise (who goes by Dr. Karin on the show) is a therapist with a doctorate in counseling from Georgia State University. Her recent Lighter Side show topics include “How to Go From Breakdown to Breakthrough” and “How to Find Your Inner Light.”
She admires Butler’s drive: “She built this studio with her own two hands. She’s an amazing workhorse.” Indeed, her producer Jesse Grainger said Butler has a hard time sitting still.
Butler has known about her connections to spirits since she was a very young child. But her parents told her to ignore them. So her skills, she said, were dormant from ages 6 to 18. She only began to accept her clairvoyance abilities as a student at the University of Florida, where she graduated with a degree in fine arts.
“I see and hear energy very well,” she said. “When I am translating information from someone, I get it from energy. There are entities and energies around every human being even if you don’t believe in them.”
In recent years, Butler has had opportunities to become the Southern version of TLC’s “Long Island Medium” Theresa Caputo. She said she shot pilots for networks such as A&E, Discovery and History. But nothing ever panned out. She resisted the concept of just channeling spirits and wowing audiences with her skills. She wanted to teach and inspire others to tap their own inner medium skills.
Plus, she wanted full ownership and creative control of the show. If she had joined a big cable network, “I would have signed my life away,” she said.
With a subscription-only site, she can generate income without having to seek out sponsors. The other hosts pay to be on the network and split profits based on viewership levels.
To break even, she said she needs about 3,100 monthly subscribers. She isn’t there yet and has yet to take a salary. But she loves the positive feedback she gets from her early paying customers.
Plus, being behind a paywall provides her fans with a level of security: “We have a private forum on our network where we can ask or share deeper things and not worry about being trolled on public social media.”
Laura Boone joined the network as an astrologer and psychic host. She also runs a commercial furniture dealership. “We’re sort of our little island here,” she said. “We’re for the mainstream. We’re normal people. We’re trying to take the weird out of it.”
Butler, who has been married for 15 years with two kids, calls her followers “lumineers” because she wants them to be “illuminated.”
Amy Harper Willis, a 36-year-old North Carolina resident and “lumineer,” said Butler and her other hosts are “a great platform for the desensationalization and normalization of mediumship, channeling, energy healing, etc.” She does medium work herself, and LSN makes her “feel normal in a world where people feel as though these types of things are quite ‘woo woo.’ “
Butler still does private channeling sessions and teaches both online and in-person classes. After channeling a spirit for a recent show, she said it takes 15 to 20 minutes for her to “get my sea legs back on. I eat. I drink coffee or tea.”
She said while she’s channeling, she feels like she’s asleep and recalls nothing the spirit says. She doesn’t watch her channeling episodes because “it’s not comfortable to watch myself not behave like me. My posture, my gestures, my language and my cadences are all different.”
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.