When Mike Kelton and I sit down over soda and fries at Schnipper's on 41st Street, I feel like I'm catching up with a dear friend. There's some truth to that: Though Kelton is more than five years my senior, we both grew up queer in the suburbs of metro New York. His mother was my high school health and wellness teacher. When I was 14 and deeply closeted, he spoke to my high school's GSA during its inaugural year, a moment of compassion and genuine connection I've held onto more than eight years later.
Granted, we're not super close, but there's something special about Kelton that just draws you in. And I'm not the first to say that: At least two of the psychic mediums he's interviewed on his witchy new podcast, Beyond with Mike Kelton, have mentioned that he's an empath, or a person who's highly sensitive to the emotions and energies of others. He's very attuned to spaces, he tells me, often knowing immediately and instinctively whether a room or building has good or bad energy.
In fact, it was Kelton's exploration into his own empathic nature and paranormal experiences that inspired him to launch the supernatural-themed pod in the first place.
"I was always shamed for either talking about astrology, or a ghost story about my grandfather," he says. "But then what I realized was everyone has one of these stories. I think my reason for starting the podcast was to make other people feel less crazy about having that ghost story."
That ghost story about Kelton's paternal grandfather, Bob, became the genesis for Episode 1, in which Kelton and his father tap the expertise of Asa Hoffman, a medium in New York, to channel Bob's spirit. The episode is both highly entertaining and an emotional rollercoaster, something Kelton tells me he "wasn't prepared for." (I wasn't prepared, either, and I cried along with Kelton in the recording when I first listened to the episode on the subway.) "As a host of something, you go into every situation knowing that, like, ‘I’m in control. It is my job to guide the audience, to have a good time, to keep them entertained,'" he explains. "But I was totally out of control. Because I was emotionally thrown for a loop, connecting to my dead grandfather."
The episode also provided the clarity Kelton needed to know he was on the right path. "This is a real deep dive for me," he adds. "I have to be able to open myself up to it."
Beyond is made in partnership with Forever Dog Productions, a comedy podcast network. The podcast is more than halfway through its first season. It's also a stylistic departure for Kelton, who's made a name for himself as a comedian and web personality, working for brands like MTV and Logo. But opening himself up to others has proven successful: Kelton tells me his DMs are flooded daily with messages from listeners thanking him for sharing his stories and talking so openly about spirituality and paranormal experiences.
He's included close friends, family, and loved ones in pretty much every episode, including his mother, his father, and his boyfriend, Andrew. (Admittedly, Andrew is a bit of a skeptic, Kelton says, and Beyond hasn't done much to sway him in favor of the supernatural, though he does totally dig the pod.)
Kelton has also become friends with many of the supernatural experts he's had guest on the podcast, something he's incredibly grateful for. He's found his tribe, and the topics of all of Beyond's episodes—including his three-part investigation into a dark spirit at Cure Thrift Shop in the East Village—have come up organically, mostly from friends' suggestions or his own experiences.
I joke to Kelton that witchy stuff is gay culture, and he laughs with a nod. "Being a queer person, you know what it feels like to be on the outside of things," he says. "So growing up loving X-Men, Charmed, witchcraft—it always feels like that was a narrative for queer people. I think we have a natural proclivity for it."
Below, check out an exclusive clip from an upcoming episode of Beyond, in which Kelton and his BF attempt to exorcise a haunted dresser. Yes, you read that right. And yes, it's just as entertaining as it sounds, whether you believe in the beyond or not.