Woman Sees Dead People, TV Gig

CAROUSEL: Manny Pacquiao, left, and Antonio Margarito, right, pose during a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010, in Arlington, Texas. Between them is a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader.
Hollywood has taken interest in a suburban Cleveland woman paid to talk to the dead. Mary Ann Winkowski's paranormal experiences as a ghostbuster for hire have inspired CBS to create "Ghost Whisperer," starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, which is part of the network's fall lineup.

Winkowski, a paid consultant to the show, doesn't have a listing in the phone book, but is booked four months in advance chasing unwanted ghosts from people's homes.

Her job has taken her from Scotland to Mexico; into the homes of people killed in the Oklahoma City bombing and a house she says was haunted by a Cleveland mobster.

"I never would have thought 20 years ago this would have been a full-time job," Winkowski said. "I don't advertise or drum up business. People call me. I don't call them."

Winkowski is matter of fact about what she sees, discussing it as plainly as she does her former pet-grooming business, which helped pay the bills before ghostbusting became her trade.

She says she can only talk to spirits who have not crossed over into the afterlife. Most hang around for a just short time and are always at their funerals.

Winkowski is often hired to attend funerals and tie up loose ends ("Where did dad leave the will?") or to help relatives have one last conversation with a loved one.

"The ladies will always walk over and check out the flowers," she said of female spirits. As for the male ghosts, "They have to count how many cars are in the funeral procession."

Spirits who refuse to cross over are the ones that keep Winkowski busy. She charges $100 or more to guide them to the white light.

Hollywood became aware of the 57-year-old's work through her friend, best-selling medium James Van Praagh, the subject of the CBS miniseries "Living with the Dead."

"I looked right past her at first because she's the least likely ghostbusting person," said John Gray, executive producer of "Ghost Whisperer." "She's from the Midwest. She's friendly. There's no mystique."

Winkowski first met with Gray a year ago. Gray recalls they went for coffee and he asked where they could go to find ghosts.

"She said, 'There's people here right now.'"

"I said, 'Right here in Starbucks?'"