Wednesday, April 10, 2013
My Day Trip to the Spirit World
Every six months they put on a big Psychic Fair out in the suburbs. I always get curious when I see the ad, but then I seem to forget about it. This year, though, a couple of friends were going, so I decided to tag along. The admission fee was a hefty $14, but I gritted my teeth and got my ticket. It was a huge place. There must have been at least 150 booths in the convention hall ballroom, and by midday the place was filled up with fair-goers. There were many more women than men; nearly everybody was white; lots of middle-aged people. Except for a minority dressed in New Age garb, it would be easy to mistake the people for a typical mall crowd. Being a newcomer, I felt a little self-conscious at first, but everybody seemed busy doing their psychic stuff, so it was easy to blend in.
The biggest batch of vendors were the psychic readers, variously self-labeled as mediums, psychics, clairvoyants, astrologers, angel readers, channelers, palmists, tarot card readers, handwriting analysts, spiritualists, etc. The going rate was typically $35 for a 15-minute consultation, and many of the readers were already booked solid for the entire day. There were also several animal psychics. We talked to one who explained that she’d had a special gift for communicating with animals since childhood. Given a name and description of an animal, she’d be able to communicate telepathically with it and give us information about its bodily condition, needs and wants, emotional state, and whatever else the animal conveyed to her. A poster showed pictures of her communicating with dogs, cats, rabbits, parakeets, horses, wolves, cows, and what I think was an alligator. According to the psychic, it didn’t matter if the animal was alive or dead since telepathy worked equally well in either case. That made sense.
There were hour-long seminars going on all day long in downstairs conference rooms. The first one we went to was the best. It was given by a clairvoyant named Maria whose spirit guide was the ancient wizard Merlin from Arthurian times. Merlin accompanied Maria wherever she went and relayed messages from the spirit world. Maria looked around the room and said that Merlin was conveying a message that very moment from the mother of someone present. She said the mother had suffered from a heart condition but had actually passed away from a lengthy illness unrelated to her heart. She asked if anyone could relate to that, and two women in the audience raised their hands. Maria wasn’t surprised to get two responders since it’s not unusual to receive an initial communication from one loved one, then have an additional spirit piggyback on the first one’s message. Merlin and Maria acted as mediators for messages from the first mother to her daughter in the audience, then did the same with the second pair. In each case the dead parent sent her deep love and reassured her daughter that she was doing very well. One of the recipients broke into tears; the other just looked dazed. Then Maria said Merlin had just gotten a new message from someone’s brother. Maria said the brother was associated in some way with the letter P. She said the brother was very outgoing. a life of the party, and lots of fun to be with. Though I didn’t raise my hand, I thought immediately of my brother Peter. Maria said that the brother was together at that very moment with a second being, perhaps another family member. Maria got a vague sense of alcohol being involved. She said the two spirits were very happy together and were sending their love. I felt a brief tingle in my spine. I knew that if I were ever to be contacted by anyone from the spirit world, it would definitely be my brother Peter. It did sound like it could be him. Very eery…
While there were readers all over the place, there were also 40 or 50 booths occupied by healers. Psychic fairs, I decided, have a lot to do with alternative mental health services – New Age ways of dealing with loss, grief, physical illness, depression, anxiety, loneliness, financial problems, etc. People were busy doing Reiki energy healing, crystology, Akashic records, spiritual detox, Chakra balancing, basking in serenity boxes, and hypnotherapy (including past life regression). We stopped at one booth where several people sat with their bare feet in tubs of yucky water that had turned to various shades of brown. The healer’s husband explained that each tub had initially contained clear tap water, but the tubs were outfitted with ionizers which were drawing out toxins from the people’s internal organs through the bottoms of their feet. The different shades of brown indicated whether the toxins were coming from the liver, the gall bladder, or the colon. One former client had reportedly had his stomach cancer healed by the ionizer, and I wondered if a worldwide cure was in the offing.
There was, of course, tons of stuff to buy. The fair was not exclusively psychic or spiritual – there was a tangible material presence. Healing crystals, gems, and stones were the most popular products, and you could spend anywhere from a dollar to several hundred. Many of the psychics had authored books which they offered to sign, and others had CDs for sale. There was healing music and healing art and lots of jewelry with mystical symbolism. Native American paraphernalia was popular. A couple of booths offered high-tech electronic equipment for detecting ghosts. Others took photographs of one’s aura, followed by a spiritual interpretation. There was a plentiful supply of Tarot cards, pouches for carrying gems and stones, musical instruments, oils and herbs and incense. All in all, it would be easy to transform one’s entire living quarters into an other-worldly retreat if you spent enough money.
At the end of the day I did a little homework on the psychic services industry. According to websites listed below, there are currently about 80,000 providers of psychic services in the U.S. That’s nearly six times the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the country. It’s also double the number of psychiatrists in the US (39,500) and close to the number of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists (approximately 85,000). Psychic service firms (usually one person) take in $2.1 billion per year. In contrast to most businesses, profits from psychic services grew during the recent recession, presumably because worried consumers turned more often to psychics for advice on financial matters and employment problems.
A 2001 Gallup poll found that 54% of a national sample of American adults believe in psychic or spiritual healing and 50% believe in extrasensory perception (ESP). About a third believed in clairvoyance (the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future) (32%); that extraterrestrials have visited the earth (33%); and in mental telepathy (communication between minds without using the traditional five senses) (36%). A 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 29% of Americans say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died, 26% believe that spiritual energy is located in physical things like trees or crystals, 25% believe in astrology, 24% believe in reincarnation, and 18% say they have seen or been in the presence of ghosts. Such New Age beliefs (e.g., reincarnation, astrology) are more likely to be endorsed by younger persons than older, women than men, minorities than whites, less-educated persons than more-educated, Democrats than Republicans, and Catholics than Protestants. 15% of American adults report having previously consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic. White evangelical Protestants are least likely to have consulted a psychic (10%); white Catholics, most likely (17%).
I didn’t get a personal reading on my visit to the fair. It would have cost $35, I’m shy with strangers, and I was too wary. But now I sort of regret it. That’s not the best approach. When you go to a baseball game, you should immerse yourself in baseball. At a rock concert, you should let yourself flow with the music. To enjoy a psychic fair, you need to get into a fanciful and metaphysical frame of mind. Otherwise, what’s the point? When I get in the proper mindset, I conclude that my day’s experiences were mind-blowing. I’d visited a completely different world from the one that I normally inhabit. I’d been present in the same room with 1500-year-old Merlin who I’d only known previously from stories and legends. Not only that, but Merlin talked with my brother and passed along his greetings from the spirit world. And I got to hear a lot of supernatural messages from other peoples’ loved ones too. Then I saw people’s bodily toxins being extracted through their feet by a machine that can cure cancer. And I probably absorbed a year’s worth of positive energy from walking past thousands of healing crystals. If that’s not worth a lot more than $14, I can’t imagine what is. I guess I’ll go back again next year. Maybe I’ll work on collecting crystals in the meantime.
SOURCES: www.apa.org, “American Psychological Association”; www.bls.gov, “Bureau of Labor Statistics”; www.gallup.com, "American's belief in psychic and paranormal phenomena is up over last decade" (June 8, 2001); www.huffingtonpost.com/2012, “10 biggest fast food chains in the U.S.”; www.pewresearch.org, "Eyed by evil" (Dec. 29, 2009); www.PRWeb.com, “Psychic services in the US industry market research report…”; www.psychiatry.org, “American Psychiatric Association”; www.psychiatryonline.org; www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychologist
-Donna D (4-13): this was fun to read!
-Jennifer M (4-10-): I like this. :-)