Frank Sandoval - The Sixth Sense

Published: 29 April, 2013 - Featured in Skin Deep 224, April, 2013

Sometimes in this game, you stumble across a tattooist who you can’t fail but dig deeper with. The following story comes out of a chance encounter (all my articles lately come out of chance encounters – maybe I should stay indoors for a while) with Frank Sandoval who, as you’ll see, got a little sidetracked from tattooing for good reasons…

There’s no skirting around the facts of this one. Frank Sandoval is a regular tattooist in what could be anytown USA – or anytown/ any country for that matter. He’s actually in Pennsylvania, but that’s kind of besides the point because Frank, even though he held back on telling the world until now, is also a psychic medium.

At which point, I have no doubt there will be people shaking their heads and thinking of turning the pages rather sharpish in search of something else that agrees with their world view, but if there’s one place that all kinds of people are accepted, it’s in tattooing, right?

OK, so that might be wishful thinking on my part, but the theory is solid. Hear Frank out – it’s a great story and as I’ve said many times before, we all tend to believe what we want to believe and that makes what you believe true by default. Let’s dig…

“I’ve been tattooing for about six years now and I’ve been airbrushing for the past 17. When I first became interested in the tattoo industry, I talked to a local artist/ shop owner about completing an apprenticeship under him. He agreed to teach me so I purchased all of the necessary equipment to get started. I went back down to the shop and found it was closed! I decided to put the equipment away and wait it out.

“After about six months, I decided to begin studying all aspects of tattooing. I read and studied about technique, equipment, supplies and safety. I would take my machines apart and put them back together. I then went and got my blood borne pathogens certification from the Red Cross. My next step was to tattoo fruit and practice skin. A good buddy of mine was over one day and asked me if I felt like tattooing him. He said that he trusted me and gave me the confidence to go for it. The next day my dad saw the tattoo and asked if he were next. I tattooed out of a remodeled room in my house for just under a year. The room was strictly for tattooing with all of the proper safety and cleanliness measures in place. Once I saw how fast my name was getting out from just tattooing family and close friends, I decided it was time to take the next step and open a shop.”

So far, so blah, blah, blah – that is more or less just about every working tattooists story out there. But what about the part of the story we came all this way for.

“My medium ability has been with me since I was a child, but my first real recollection of it having an impact in my life was at the age of 16. My grandma was in the hospital very ill. We knew that it wasn’t going to be much longer before she passed. As an immature teenager, I did not want to be at the hospital when she did go, so I left and went home.

“I went to sleep and had a dream that I went back to the hospital just before she passed. Right after she passed, I slid my hands under her and picked her up. The hospital door opened and outside of it was full of bright lights but it didn’t have a floor. I checked to see if I was able to stand on it and after confirming I could stand on it, I walked to a staircase. At the top of it was a man standing. It was my grandfather. Every step I took going up, he took one coming down and met me half way. I went to hand my grandma to him and he told me to put her down that she could walk there. The next day, my dad came in to my room to tell me that my grandma had passed away overnight. I told him that I already knew and told him the exact time that she passed.

“Since then, I have suppressed my visions and ability… that is until last summer. In July of 2012, I had a vision in a dream. It was a spirit telling me that it was time to share my ability with others. The spirit told me that I would be ridiculed but I needed to trust that this was the right path for me. I was also told that I would be known as ‘The Tattoo Medium’ and that through my tattooing, I would reach the unreachable because I see all walks of life tattooing. From there, my gift has blossomed and I am using it daily. Not only am I known for tattooing, but also for reconnecting clients with their loved ones on the other side.”

I assume (reasonably correctly as it happens) that at some point there must come a correlation between the ability and the art? Knowing more than a few finely tuned people myself, they all get led to create art that relates to their ability eventually…

“I have always done memorial tattoos. Let’s face it, that is one of the main reasons people decide to get tattooed. Since I began sharing my gift, it has changed the way I design their tattoo. As I design the tattoo, I often hear advice from their loved ones on what to add, take away or change about the design to make it more meaningful for my client. A good example is a design I was doing and out of the blue I was told to add a purple butterfly. I did it and when the client came to look at the design she was very surprised to see the butterfly and explained that it was her grandma’s favorite.”

Are you still with us? I hope so, because in as much as this is about Frank and his ability, it’s also a grounding in what you should expect from your tattoo and how much it will come to mean to you. More than many things we could publish here, in some skewed manner, this is a timely lesson in how to get yourself a tattoo that will still be as interesting to you in 50 years – and you don’t need to talk to the other side to figure that out. That aside, it must have made people curious to find out more about both aspects. Positivity all around, surely?
“I’ve had a great response so far. I do enjoy having those that really question my validity… it makes me want to reconnect them with their passed loved ones even more. Once I start telling them things that I shouldn’t know, they are amazed. I do, however, always give them the chance to tell me they don’t want to hear more or for me to stop, but I haven’t had any ask me not to continue yet. While it hasn’t caused a surge in business, I have had some people come get tattooed that would perhaps not have under other circumstances. Most leave with a new appreciation for the tattoo industry and an added meaning for the tattoo they received.

“I have been blessed thus far without much negativity from this. My business has not been negatively affected, but I have had a few family members who have decided not to speak to me, my wife and our daughter. In their eyes, it is a curse instead of a gift and me and my family will be going to hell for me practicing it.

“It makes me look at people differently. While I find my best connections while I am tattooing, I do get them when I am out in public away from my comfort zone. It makes me look at people differently because I am seeing a piece of their history and a piece of their life’s situation. I often get memories from their loved ones rushing through my head as if they were my own memories. I am still working on getting the nerve up to approach people in public to let them know that their loved one has a message for them.”

Let’s dig some more. I’m curious as to how Frank sees his role here. Is it in terms of the ‘dead speaking’ or is he empathic and those messages simply appear without a ‘middle-man’ as it were standing between him and the client?

“I feel that I stand between the spirit and the tattoo client. I don’t edit messages or change their word usage, but I am in full control of what is going on. I have had spirits talk to me using all sorts of profanity and slang and when I told the client they knew right away who it was and that is how they talked when they were alive.”

Maybe we should get some real world stories at this point. Everybody likes a good story, right?

“Each year we do a fundraising event that we called Tats for That. The money we raise is donated to a family in need that we choose from nominations the community sends us. Last year, the event was done for five year old Alana ‘Lanie’ Isenberg. She was diagnosed with leukemia. Our event was held in March 2012 and Lanie passed away in April 2012. She was an amazing little girl and we were blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know her in the short time we were given.

“In August, Lanie came to me in a dream and showed me several things and told me that I would see her mom the following day. I kind of blew it off because I didn’t expect to see her. Well, we were at a basket party my wife organised for her uncle, and Bre (Lanie’s mom) came to it. I told her about the things that Lanie showed me in the dream and asked her if it meant anything to them. Bre immediately told me that it was Lanie. I then told her that Lanie wanted me to let her know that she sings with her angels. This was the piece of information that would confirm that it was Lanie. Bre told Lanie to go sing with her angels in her last moments here on Earth. Since that day, Lanie has visited family through me during several tattoo sessions for her parents and other family members. It gives them comfort knowing she is still around them and sees the things they are doing and the ways they are keeping her memory alive.

“We have had an increase in bullying issues in our area and surrounding areas recently. There have been several teens take their own lives as a result. A few months ago, we received a call from a previous client to set up an appointment for her husband. He just lost his daughter. He already had the tattoo picked out so we scheduled him in. When he came in, he was unaware of my ability.

“As I was tattooing him, I kept seeing peaches so I asked him what they meant to him. He told me that it was the nickname of his daughter’s boyfriend’s mom. He asked me how I knew that and I told him that I am a psychic medium. His daughter told me that she was okay and that she wanted him to go talk to Peaches. She also told me that she saw her dad talk about her the previous weekend and where he was and who he was with. It gave him some closure since her death was so unexpected and her cause of death was so hard to take.”

There will be those who chew this up as being the greatest thing ever and those that chew it up and spit it out. It doesn’t matter either way. The fact remains that Frank and his clients are doing great work together, but in my opinion, the world is a better place for having people like Frank in it.
Cue a very long future letters page… bring it!

Total Commitment

55 Main Street,
East Conemaugh, PA.


Text: Sion Smith; Photography: Frank