Regular folks flock to psychics, but are they tapping into truth?
Louisville psychic Marilyn Gaddie often is asked to handicap the Kentucky Derby and has told fortunes aboard the Star of Louisville. She claims an 85 percent accuracy rate.
Among the dated predictions on her Web site, www.heaven-knows.com, is a foiled terrorist plot on the Eiffel Tower in 1994.
“One day, I was walking down the hall of my house and I saw the Eiffel Tower blow up in front of my eyes,” says the 61-year-old soothsayer and former president of the Astrological Society of Kentucky. “I called one of my friends, so if anything happened I would have told somebody.
“Then several weeks later, I went to a New Year’s Eve party, and one of the guests said, ‘Well, what do you think? Somebody was trying blow up the Eiffel Tower, but they stopped it.’ I hadn’t seen the news. But I was constantly getting images on terrorists attacks, and right after 9/11, all the television programs were on about how similar this plot to blow up the Eiffel Tower was.”
Believe it, or not.
More and more people are taking such prognostications to heart, increasing the popularity of psychics, advisers, healers, mediums, herbalists and clairvoyants.
Hundreds of people flock to psychic fairs at area hotels. When 23-year-old Heather Teague was kidnapped near Evansville, Ind., in 1995, the family sought help from psychic Sharon Gresham in a futile police search. Even WHAS radio personality Francene Cucinello joked last year that it might take a psychic to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
In 2002, the Oasis Center, a school of metaphysics that teaches psychic development, dream interpretation, astrology, meditation and other esoteric subjects, opened in the Crescent Hill neighborhood.
One of its instructors, a 40-year-old Bardstown, Ky., clairvoyant named Fanell, reputedly speaks to the dead, and comes highly recommended by satisfied customers such as Anita Perryman, a retired Jefferson County Public School teacher.
Perryman said Fanell channeled her aunt, Hazel Peters, within the last 18 months.
“I went in for a 30-minute session, and what he did that made me know that it was real was that she said, ‘Tell my daughters that I’ll be at the wedding this weekend and that everybody will be in white.’
“Well, I didn’t know that there was a wedding that weekend involving my cousins,” Perryman said. “Afterwards, they called me to say that Aunt Hazel had been right. Everybody was in white, even the mother of the bride.”
Kente International, the African arts boutique in the Highlands that boasts an upscale, sophisticated clientele, recently began offering appointments with Okomfo Enyo, a priest and mystic in the Akan religion of Ghana.
“A lot of our customers were requesting it. They want their fortunes told. They’re asking for tarot card readings,” said Musa Uthman, who owns the boutique with his wife, Lisa. “And I’m not surprised. There are so many things happening now that people don’t understand, and they’re searching. They want to know what’s in store for them. They want to understand the mysteries of life, because they know there’s something more.”
That’s only human. We’ve been trying to predict the future for eons. But occult practices once associated with carnival sideshows seem to be going legit.
Featured guests on CNN’s “Larry King Live” can be Secretary of State Colin Powell one night and psychic Sylvia Browne the next. Popular movies such as “The Sixth Sense,” “The Gift” and “Minority Report” increasingly explore paranormal themes.
And individuals often looked up to as role models are setting the example.
Former first lady Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer; author Norman Mailer’s wife, Norris Church, and Mia Tyler, daughter of Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, have attempted to channel dead relatives through medium John Edward, according to Edward’s 2003 book, “After Life” (Hay House).
Edward also is host of a popular cable show, “Crossing Over,” on which he talks to audience members’ dead relatives. “A lot of this would probably not make a ’60 Minutes’ feature, but Larry King has more air time and can afford to be more divergent,” said Michael Cunningham, a social psychologist at the University of Louisville. “There’s an expanding number of cable channels, more time to fill, and therefore more diverse points of view are represented.
“As a result of greater exposure, things become a bit more known and a bit more accepted.”
There are skeptics aplenty, such as James Randi, a Florida-based magician who wrote “The Truth About Uri Geller” (Prometheus Books), debunking Geller’s ability to bend objects with his mind or divine the contents of sealed envelopes as simply magic tricks.
Through the James Randi Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes critical thinking about the paranormal, he’s offered $1million to anyone who demonstrates supernatural powers in a controlled setting and supervised by third-party experts.
And it’s hard to find instances of Edward or other spiritualists contacting missing or dead people who would seem strongly motivated to apprise living relatives of their whereabouts.
Wouldn’t that be a cakewalk for the psychically gifted? Wouldn’t victims of unsolved murders want to comfort grieving family members and bring their assailants to justice?
“It depends on whether they’ve transferred over into the spirit world,” clairvoyant Fanell said. “Sometimes they stay earthbound, which is what we call ‘ghosts.’ I can’t remotely pick up ghosts. Second, if they do transform all the way into the spirit realm, they immediately forgive the person that killed them. You can’t assume that the person wants justice done, or even if they want their remains found.
“I’ll give you a prime example,” Fanell said. “James Van Praagh (a famous medium) did a session to channel Nicole Brown Simpson, and she basically said, let it go.”
For every doubter, there’s a believer like Wendy Wilson asserting the veracity of supernatural claims.
Wilson, a 35-year-old bank manager in Louisville, met Enyo at the home of her boss’s neighbors. Enyo pulled out her tarot cards and asked if Wilson would like a reading.
“I thought it would be a fun thing to do,” Wilson said, recalling that Enyo told Wilson about her love life, her finances and her future — even correctly describing a man she later met.
“She asked me, ‘What are you worried about? You’re concerned about something,'” Wilson said.
Enyo grabbed her stomach, and said, “I feel something in your stomach. Something’s not right,” Wilson recalled. “I don’t know if it’s your kidneys, but it’s in the middle part of your body.”
“My eyes got big,” Wilson said, “because I think I was starting to get sick then. Prior to the reading I wasn’t feeling that well, but thought it was just female stuff, weird stomach problems, and was putting it off.
“I would have gone to the doctor eventually, but she helped me.”
Nearly everyone has intuitive powers — it’s why you may think of someone the instant before he or she calls on the phone — that can be developed to uncanny levels with discipline and training, all the psychics interviewed said.
But most practicing psychics are said to be gifted and variously ascribed powers of telepathy, faith healing, communion with the dead and spirit possession, during which some supposedly regurgitate a luminous substance called ectoplasm that materializes into ghosts.
“Everything I do is guided by God,” said Fanell, the 40-year-old Bardstown clairvoyant and spiritual medium. “I had a very powerful awakening in November of 1995 where God came to me. I had been cleaning my apartment, and I went to take a bath. The bathroom temperature dropped to where I could see my breath, but I felt all this warmth.
“When I got out of the bathroom, my whole bedroom was lit up in a brilliant light, and I felt myself in the presence of God. So I asked, ‘Are you God?’ And a voice answered, ‘I am neither male nor female, but I am the entity that you recognize as God. I’ve always been by your side.’ I asked, ‘Why me? Why now?’ And he told me, ‘Why not?’
“He asked me to do his work and, at the time, I didn’t know what that meant. But when the energy left the room, I found myself able to pick up people’s thoughts.”
More typical are abilities developed over time, pursued in years of metaphysical study and practice, and often supplemented with a college degree in a respectable field.
Louise Hancock, 66 and a Chandler, Ind.-based reader and intuitive, said psychic ability ran like an inheritance in the female line of the family, compelling her to devote over 40 years to developing her skills and studying religion, philosophy and metaphysics. For the past 15 years, she’s organized psychic fairs in nine states.
Enyo, the Akan priest, holds a master’s in social work and has studied under religious prefects in Ghana, partly following her grandmother’s example.
“She did a lot of work with herbs; she was a psychic; she could do healing and readings, interpreted dreams,” said Enyo, 48. “She would always burn her hair, never threw it away because someone could get your hair and work spells on you.
” I can’t explain it, but I’ve always had this gift to see an imbalance in bodily energy — high heat energy or low cold energy, just by running my hands across a person’s energy field.”
That ability can have a scientific explanation, according to Victoria Snelling, a chiropractor who studied holistic medicine at the London School of Homeopathy and now runs an alternative healing clinic in Louisville.
“Quantum physics describes waves of particle-matter, matter at the subatomic level — that the next instant, it’s energy,” she said. “It slips back and forth (between subatomic matter and energy). It’s almost the interpretation of the observer that determines whether it’s matter or energy.
“So what we once thought of as very mysterious are actually things that are very real and very measurable. There is information we receive from the body that an onlooker would almost assume you had to be psychic.
“But it’s not psychic; it’s actually science.”
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