FARGO — Dean McMurray never chose the kind of life he lives now. As he says, "it chose me."
After serving 24 years in the military, McMurray, of Fargo, now leads an entirely different life — a life even he could have never predicted.
Better known as the "military medium," McMurray's newfound calling has him serving a similar purpose to that of his time in the military: helping people.
Described by clients as being "spooky accurate," McMurray said that in his work as a medium, he's helped hundreds of clients connect with their deceased loved ones, relaying messages of hope, love, peace, healing and inspiration.
McMurray's journey to becoming a medium involved a few speed bumps. The biggest of which was whether or not to fully embrace being a medium. Initially, he was his own biggest skeptic.
Growing up in International Falls, Minn., McMurray was the son of a Canadian military father and the youngest of four children. "I had a very normal, boring childhood," he said.
McMurray graduated from high school in 1989. Just a few months later, he left Minnesota for basic training.
McMurray deployed to Afghanistan in 2003. As an infantry platoon leader, he never lost a soldier under his command.
McMurray returned to the U.S. in July 2010. Five months later, his life would change forever.
'I knew it was a grandma'
It was on a cold December evening in 2010 when McMurray had his first encounter with the spiritual world. It was with his own deceased grandmother.
That night while washing baby bottles, McMurray said, he felt "that creeped out feeling that there was somebody behind me."
"I knew it was a grandma, and I was like 'How the heck do I know it was a grandma?'"
McMurray shook off the feeling and went to bed. Moments later, he said, he began to talk with his grandma, not physically, but spiritually. All the while, he said, he was battling his own ego.
"I started talking to her (grandma)," McMurray said. And then he told himself, "You know what, Dean? This isn't real, you're just making all this up in your head."
"Then I told myself, 'Why don't you just prove it?'"
Moments later, McMurray said, the bedroom turned ice cold. With his wife fast asleep beside him, McMurray's back-and-forth battle with his ego continued.
"Why don't you just have her (grandma) touch you?" McMurray told himself. "You can't explain that away."
As soon as he thought that, McMurray said, from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet he began to feel heavier than the mattress, like somebody was on top of him pushing him down.
"It was quite literally the most freaky thing that has ever happened to me," he said. "I could physically feel and hear the spring compress, and I could feel myself sinking into the mattress."
Lying in bed, covered in sweat, McMurray said he proceeded to wake up his wife. He told her someone was in the house — not physically — but in spirit.
In the following days, McMurray said, he began to seek answers as to why he was able to communicate with spirits. His wife recommended he visit a local psychic, so he did.
After a few initial visits, the psychic asked McMurray to do a "test reading." It was McMurray's first-ever reading, and the last time he'd ever question whether he was a medium.
"Obviously you're gifted," McMurray said the psychic told him. "Now you need to make the decision whether to enhance that ability."
McMurray said his eventual decision to move forward with his newfound abilities was one rooted in his military past. "What I did as a soldier, and what I have always done, is I'm there to help people," he said.
But before going all in as a medium, he was hesitant. "At first, I was not open to any of this," McMurray said. "It was something so far out of what I was comfortable with."
McMurray took classes on being a medium, and today he conducts readings for clients around the world, mostly out of his south Fargo home.
McMurray says the most rewarding part of the job is being able to help families connect with deceased loved ones, providing the living with closure and a sense of relief.
"Just to know that I have made an impact at some level, that is just really humbling," he said. "It's why I do what I do."