Apparently, talking to dead people can be a real buzz-kill.

At least that seems to be the case on the hit NBC series Medium. Every time Allison DuBois (Patricia Arquette) helps a spirit head to heaven or a young woman avoid a killer, she grows more disillusioned with her psychic powers. This isn't just some plotline dreamed up by the show's writers, though. The real DuBois went through the same doubt and dread four years ago — until she walked into the office of Professor Gary Schwartz of the University of Arizona .

"I wanted to prove I wasn't seeing dead people," DuBois recalls. She hoped Schwartz, who runs the school's Human Energy Systems Lab, could help. At their first meeting, DuBois accurately described a friend of his who had just died. Impressed, Schwartz conducted a series of experiments, such as one in which DuBois tried contacting the late husband of a woman in England. Knowing only the woman's name, she was asked to provide details about the man. A transcript of that session was then sent to the widow — and 80 percent of what DuBois said was correct.

"Is she [totally] accurate?" Schwartz says. "No. Is she accurate enough to listen to her? Oh, yeah!"

Not everyone is as convinced. Paul Kurtz, chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, says, "It's a shame that the American public has to be exposed to such barnyard nonsense without hearing [any] skeptical criticisms from the scientific community."

For Schwartz, though, seeing is believing. "Anyone who's looked closely at the evidence can't help but come to the conclusion that there is something very real going on here," he says. DuBois is a little more direct. "I know that when we die, we're still there, so I don't have anything to lose. When [skeptics] die, all of a sudden they'll look around and go, 'Oops!'"