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A retired Salem cop who swapped his badge for a crystal ball is still sleuthing - with backup from his friends from beyond the grave.
Professional psychic medium Chuck Bergman, 57, spent 32 years pounding the beat in the Witch City, but says that since retiring five years ago he is finding old habits die hard.
Initially skeptical of his "gift," Bergman says he is now channeling the spirits to help police and desperate families find missing loved ones from coast to coast.
"When I realized I had this gift, it was pretty wild and unexpected. It came right out of the blue," the married father of three told the Herald in a telephone interview from his new home in Florida.
"But I now offer my services to police departments all the time. I'm working on a case right now," he said.
He was already a busy, working medium when his new, paranormal policing role first beckoned in the summer of 2005. A California woman contacted him in desperation after her brother, a rock climber, vanished in a remote mountain area in Sierra Nevada.
By tuning into the spirit world, Bergman claims he was able to describe the missing man, his truck and other personal details, and says he gave her the exact co-ordinates where to find him.
"It was like being hit between the eyes because I'd never done anything like that before. They found him in the exact location I had given," Bergman said.
Tess Deshler, 52, of Florida, was a skeptic until she met Bergman last year.
"He had no idea who I was or who I wanted to contact. But he sat there and started pounding his chest and said that someone is telling him about holes in their chest," Deshler told the Herald.
Her close friend Sarah Whitlock, 23, was stabbed repeatedly in the chest by a stalker posing as a cop in 2006.
"It was unbelievable. He told me a lot of things he couldn't possibly have known and gave me messages from her," she said.
"If not for Chuck, I don't think I would have ever got out of my grief." Bergman, who ended his police career as Salem police's computer systems expert, wasn't always a believer in the spirit world.
"I was a skeptic until I was about 30," he said. But that changed in a flash one afternoon.
Bergman said he discovered his psychic skills while driving in Maine with his wife. He said he suddenly knew that an elderly woman had died at 2:30 that afternoon. They later discovered her best friend's mother died at that exact time.
"Then it just kept coming to me. I wasn't seeking mediumship or wanting to talk to the dead. I remember being really puzzled and confused," he said.
But he learned to hone his skills and later became friends with renowned TV medium James Van Praagh after meeting him at a book signing in Peabody.
Bergman said it was difficult to "come out" to his police colleagues.
"The Salem police chief already had the stigma with being in the town of witchcraft so the last thing he would want was a psychic cop in the department, so I kept it quiet," Bergman said.
Bergman is due to host a psychic seminar at the First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St. between 1-4 p.m. on Sept. 6.