CBS Television Distribution

Ghosts of children, a soldier, a heart donor, a comic, former classmates, former friends and even a spurned bride. Melinda Gordon encounters all these spirits and more in just the first season of Ghost Whisperer, a show that shed light on the afterlife by showing its brave hero shepherding spirits from one realm to the other.

It's a sensational premise for a supernatural series, the first from creator John Gray, but what many fans may not immediately realize is that Ghost Whisperer is actually firmly rooted in reality.

Among the cast and crew that helped make Ghost Whisperer great is a consultant whose own experiences with the paranormal served as the basis of the TV show. Her name is Mary Ann Winkowski, and she's a paranormal investigator whose testimonials claim she's helped rid homes of ghosts and detach spirits from people who claimed to have been followed by ghosts for years.

These experiences in the real world inspired Melinda Gordon's onscreen adventures, and Winkowski is credited as a consultant on more than 100 episodes, close to all of them. Her work as a ghosthunter also led to books, where you can peer further into the mind of the woman behind Melinda, including three novels as well as a cookbook Winkowski co-authored called Beyond Delicious: The Ghost Whisperer's Cookbook: More Than 100 Recipes from the Dearly Departed.

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On Winkowski's site, she shared an interview where she reacted to the pilot episode of Ghost Whisperer, reviewing Jennifer Love Hewitt's performance and commenting on the style of the series: "I finally saw the pilot episode, and [Jennifer Love Hewitt's] very good in this. There are a couple of things that wouldn't happen in Mary Ann's world, but welcome to Hollywood, honey. So far, I like what I'm seeing. I'm particularly glad they didn't do anything hokey."

She also clearly defined her influence on the show, saying, "I only met with John Gray, and that was for about three hours, but he must have really been paying attention, because a lot of what we talked about showed up in the pilot. And Jennifer Love Hewitt's expressions capture a lot of the looks I give. She's got that down perfectly."

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