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"He has talked to and researched and interviewed many, many people who say they have experienced psychic phenomena," Higgins says. "And it fascinates people.
"And it's his delivery, too. Not just the sonorous voice that you hear on the radio, with the ups and downs that are made for a radio audience, but in person he's very excited, very passionate about what he talks about. He just bounces around the classroom getting people very keyed up."
Local psychic Dehbra Taylor (she added the "h" to her first name for numerology purposes) met Baranowski last May, when a mutual friend called her at 6:50 p.m. to say that Baranowski needed a guest speaker for his class that night at 7:15. She had a speaking engagement, but dropped it because she sensed that she should meet Baranowski.
"My first impression of him was, 'My God, what a character,'" she says. "He's got such an enormous amount of energy around him, to me it just vibrates. It was almost as if I already knew this man. The minute I saw him, I knew him. His energy level was just pure gold.
"And his students love him. I had one woman tell me that she's been going for three years. They really care, and it's not a cult-type caring. He gives them information that they're hungry for."
Higgins says it's Baranowski's obvious sincerity that wins people over. "He doesn't come across as a person saying, 'Gee, I happen to know that people like this crapola, so I'm going to give it to them,'" she says. "He's not a snake-oil salesman."
How about your dreams? Have you awakened at night in a constant dream that beleaguers you for so many years, and you can't get rid of it? And you wonder why?
-- Frank Baranowski,
"Mysteries Around Us"
Like most of the stories Baranowski tells, his account of how he first landed on the radio is unlikely and outrageous, but delivered with disarming conviction.
He says in 1985 he was strolling through a county fair from which talk-radio station KFYI was doing a remote broadcast. He says he just happened to be standing nearby when the DJ got sick and started vomiting. With absolutely no on-air experience, Baranowski spontaneously grabbed the microphone and calmly took over the show -- for nearly two hours.
"Someone at the station said, 'You're pretty good. How would you like to have your own show?'" he recalls.
Baranowski worked for four years at KFYI, but he says his stint there was problematic, because he clashed with a program director who tried to turn him into an aggressive, insulting shock jock. So in 1989, he moved to KTAR, where he's been a weekend fixture for the past 11 years.
His show has evolved into a mix of stories, interviews with New Age notables, and psychic call-in sessions offered by people like Taylor and Baranowski's longtime friend Marian Esther. At times, it'll take a quirky turn into non-paranormal territory, such as the August 12 show, which featured an hourlong interview-and-music session with classical guitarist Estéban.
As a radio interviewer, Baranowski's innate kindness can result in unbridled gushing.
"My God, we were spellbound!" a discombobulated Baranowski exclaimed, when a recent guest who portrays Wyatt Earp at Old West shows completed a 10-minute monologue on "Mysteries Around Us."
On another show, he began an interview with holistic expert Dr. Norm Shealy by offering these words of praise for Shealy's latest book: "I already knew you were brilliant, but my God!"
But if Baranowski's interviews are occasionally awkward, as a storyteller he's an undeniable master. He's simply a font of fascinating anecdotes that he's picked up from the 4,000 books in his collection, or from firsthand experience.
He'll tell about the 46-year-old woman who received a heart transplant and came out of the hospital requesting that her family get her pizza and beer, two items she'd never been known to like. Weeks later, she bought a motorcycle. She later discovered that the person whose heart she'd received was an 18-year-old who'd died on a motorcycle. His two favorite foods were pizza and beer.
He'll tell about the woman who hears her dead lover calling to her while riding on a gondola in Venice, or about how a New Mexico man and his two sons were decapitated in accidents in a span of weeks, after receiving two pieces of petrified wood that, when placed together, form an image of a Wicca icon.
He'll scare you with the tale of a patient whose hand turned into an immovable claw after his wife died in a car accident, fleeing beatings which he'd administered with the very same hand.
One of his most avid listeners is Liz Dawn, a former actress who moved to Scottsdale from Hollywood five years ago to take a break from her career. She not only ended up staying, she created Mishka Productions, and formed a symbiotic bond with Baranowski along the way. When Mishka Productions brings famous lecturers to town, Dawn often sets them up as guests on "Mysteries Around Us." They both benefit from the deal: He gets hot guests for his show, and she gets needed publicity for her lectures.
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