The unexpected occurs when our ’empty vessel’ writer visits two clairvoyants for a glimpse of the future.

On a crinkled page in my battered notebook, standing out among indecipherable and less important scribbles, the word “chills” is written in all capital letters.

Turn a couple pages and you’ll find the word again, only this time it’s underlined and written more emphatically.

The notebook doesn’t lie – I got chills, all right, and it wouldn’t mean as much if it wasn’t so unexpected.

I’m not saying I scoff at the clairvoyant arts, mind you. I was just never much of a believer. Foretelling the future, conjuring spirits, parting the veil . . . Apart from a few dispassionate experiences with Ouija, this psychic business just isn’t my thing.

How, then, to explain the crawly feeling up and down my arms? How to describe that tingle of familiarity as the clairvoyants in question went about the work of discerning the indiscernible?

Two fascinating insights were revealed as I sought to explore the widely misunderstood world of clairvoyance recently: One is that a great many mainstream psychics want nothing to do with the media – I reached out to roughly a dozen of them, locally, but heard back from only a few.

“Just the idea of reading a journalist,” said the husband of one medium and friend to several others, “made them shy pretty quick. They really want nothing to do with you.”

The second insight is how many lay people genuinely fear clairvoyants and the knowledge that they might impart.

“It’s the kind of thing that would stress me out for days,” said my friend and colleague Randy Baril when he heard of my explorations. “It would haunt me. I’d sit around waiting for things to happen and it would cause me anxiety. No thank you.”

Me, I neither believe nor disbelieve. I am the ultimate empty vessel. So on an appropriately crisp afternoon in October, I sat down with two psychics to hear what they had to say about me, my world and my future. Two important things were revealed .I’ll likely survive the end of the world, which is just fantastic. But I’ll also have to do more public speaking, which is not.

I got chills, man.

ANISSA ROBERTS AND THE NINE OF SWORDS

In a sunny back room at a home in Auburn, I met Anissa Roberts for the first time. I had brought a brand new pack of tarot cards for her and I quickly handed them over.

Anissa refused to take them.

“I want you to open them,” she said.

She wasn’t being lazy – Anissa wanted my energy to be the only thing influencing the cards at the start of the reading.

“Right now, they’re static,” she said. “They’re nothing. Yours are likely the first human hands to touch them.”

So I opened the pack and shuffled them – shuffled them for a long time, it seemed, before Anissa was ready to take them.

She arranged the cards in a Wheel of the Year, a configuration based on an annual cycle of seasonal festivals observed by modern pagans. Nine cards, in all, plus one in the center.

Here’s the thing about a psychic reading, tarot or otherwise. Some people like to go in with a specific question or concern – Should I change careers? Will I meet the love of my life? – while others seek a general overview of things to come.

Since I’m no longer at a phase of life where I’m searching for romance or trying to pin down a career path, I decided I would seek knowledge of more global things. The world feels like an unstable and unpredictable place, of late, and I wanted Anissa to reveal my place within in.

Anissa, in turn, looked to the wheel of cards on the table in front of her. Such a strange assortment of characters: men and women in cloaks and elaborate caps; candles everywhere; goblets and swords and canes.

Anissa beheld the center card, which was inverted.

“Things are in flux,” she said. “It’s not as solid or as stable as you might think.”

Fair enough. That was certainly germane enough to my questions about the global landscape.

Anissa turned her attention to the next card, the inverted Ten of Cups.

And frowned.

“Something,” she said, “has come to an end.”

And here I experienced my first chill of the day. It’s not that those words themselves were particularly profound, it’s that the sentiment so matched the mood of what I had asked her. Over the past few years I’ve felt that things have changed significantly, but in a peripheral way, hard to pinpoint. For me, it feels like something has ended. But what?

Anissa moved through the wheel of cards.

The King of Cups, a card featuring a bearded man sitting on a throne and holding a trident.

The Five of Cups, upon which a cloaked figure stands amid three goblets of spilled wine.

“It usually means you’re overlooking something,” Anissa told me. “But it’s an intentional ignoring.”

The Four of Cups. A caped man sits surrounded by four goblets, his hands folded, his face reflective.

“It’s a moving on,” Anissa said. “We’ve done the introspecting, now we need to do the moving forward.”

Another chill captured in my notebook. Again, it’s not the message itself but the feeling it educes.

And then came the Nine of Swords, a card that evoked strong feelings even before Anissa described it in her calm voice.

The Nine of Swords is a card of fear and nightmares, and in our array of cards, and in my tarot wheel, it revealed itself in the pagan holiday of Beltane, or late spring. On the card, a hooded figure kneels on the ground, his hands over his face. Next to him is a wolf. Before him are nine candles and nine swords.

According to this card, the coming spring will be about hard decisions.

“You personally or the world at large,” Anissa told me, “will have some important choices to make.”

Life-changing choices, perhaps. Or world-changing.

The remaining tarot cards in the wheel took me through the remainder of the year to come. In the summer, the Four of Wands represents better news after the grimness of the equinox.

“There’s a coming together,” Anissa explained, “of people and of minds. There’s lots of good stuff going on. After all the difficult choices, there’s this happy time.”

The Three of Wands tells her that there’s a letting go of permanence. On the Two of Wands, the final card on the wheel, a man in a cap sits on a stump and gazes at a bird perched on his hand. It’s autumn clearly. One of the man’s arms is lashed to a wooden stake and one of his legs, as well.

To me this looks dire, but Anissa, smiling, assures me that is is not.

“It’s a peaceful card,” she said. “It’s serene. I like what has happened. You personally have come full circle, as they say.”

Things coming to an end. Hard times and tough choices in the spring, a surge of like minds in summer and then peace come fall. I can live with that.

To top off the reading, Anissa had me pull a final card from the deck to tie it all together. What I pulled was a card dominated by a beautiful, semi-naked woman surrounded by a wreath. The World card which, I’m told, represents – and strongly – an ending to the cycle of life; a pause before the next cycle begins.

“It’s very interesting,” Anissa said, “that this was your top card.”

The world is in flux, according to my reading. I am in flux personally. Things have to get hard before they get better. And you know what? I can accept that.

“I got chills,” I told Anissa hours after our reading.

“Me too,” said Anissa, who has been reading cards since she was 11 years old. “And as a reader that’s not common.”

DENISE CORRELL AND ANOTHER WHEEL

The latter part of the afternoon found me sitting before a burning candle in a bright, tidy kitchen. Across the table was Denise Correll, a medium who had been recommended by several people.

When it comes to psychic readings, Denise told me, there are three types of people. There are people who get it, people whose only desire is to stump the psychic, and grieving folks desperate to connect with lost loved ones.

I assured her that I’m not any of those types, and with that – a neutral and objective field – we got down to business.

No cloudy crystal ball on the center of the table.

No holding hands and imploring the dead to knock three times on the ceiling.

No tall dark strangers. In fact, no theatrics at all. When you get right down to it, a psychic reading is more or less a conversation where one party is expected to have unusually acute perceptions of things.

And Denise had unusually acute perceptions.

Of my maternal grandparents, long dead, she said: “Oh, weren’t they in love. They were the real deal.”

Of my daughter, Tamara, Denise offered: “She’s on fire. She’s in a very good place right now.”

My nephew, Shane: “He’s more like you than his own father.”

Bingo. Right on all counts.

Yet, it isn’t insights into familiar people that grab me. Say enough about somebody’s family, after all, and you’re bound to get something right.

What dazzled me about my reading with Denise was that I didn’t have to specifically tell her I fret over the state of the world; she found her way there all on her own.

Or at least she found her way to my concern over my role in the whole cosmic crap shoot.

“I feel like you’re trying to inform people,” Denise said, “and give them the truth they need in order for them to be conscious. That whole thing about wanting to be of service and wanting to get your message out is what I’m really picking up on; that wanting people to wake up. I see you taking people’s blinders off; taking off the rose-colored glasses.”

Do I have to tell you what I wrote in my notebook at that point?

Chills, baby!

Of course, you could argue that the whole process is about guessing. A writer who wants to inform people? Gee, who could have figured that out. Brush fires of freedom, and all that.

But in this reading at least, it felt more personal than that. It felt as though Denise had reached inside me and touched the nerve that mattered. If there is one specific matter that’s always on my mind of late, Denise found it with ease.

It also didn’t hurt that her messages somewhat mirrored those of the earlier revelations of the tarot cards.

“I see these people coming to you like spokes on a wheel,” Denise said over the flickering candle. “You have all these core groups around you.

“I see you writing longhand,” she went on. “And the longhand feels like a huge part.”

And she’s right about that, although I’m not going to tell you why.

Denise looked at me. She looked at the candle and at me again.

“You’re re-evolving,” she said. “You’re evolving into a new form of yourself. You’re keeping the things that still fit. The rest, you’re thinking, thank you very much but I don’t need you anymore.”

It was here that Denise laid upon me the most dismal revelation of them all: the revelation that shows me speaking to groups of people instead of just writing at them.

Public speaking. I got a different kind of chill.

“It just feels like another avenue for you,” Denise said. “Another strong avenue. You’re building a platform for the next part of your career, the next part of your life.”

But other than that, I was happy with the things Denise had foreseen.

The cynical part of you has to wonder if it’s a matter of people hearing what they want to hear – I certainly want to be told that the world will eventually rise out of this dystopian darkness someday, and I’d certainly invite the idea that I’ll have a role in that ascension.

But my quest for this knowledge was not particularly frantic – this was, after all, merely another assignment for the newspaper.

I tried to imagine that I was a grieving mother, desperate to know that her dead child was safe and happy on the other side. How far would I go then to twist the medium’s words into something meaningful? What emotional gymnastics would I be willing to undertake to hear exactly what I needed to hear?

To Denise’s credit, she understands this cynicism.

She’s performed readings for plenty of grieving parents, she said, and usually is able to provide them comfort. It’s not a matter of manipulation – a true medium can only go where the spirits take them.

Whether there were spirits in that room with us that afternoon isn’t for me to say. There were no groaning voices from above, no table rose off the floor and no glass bottles were flung across the room. Ultimately, I came away satisfied that Denise Correll provides a service that most others cannot provide. I don’t know how or why or any of that. For me, a psychic reading is all about feelings, intuition and the occasional chill up the spine.

Will I go back for another reading someday? Nope. This small foray aside, I’m one who is willing to let the universe reveal things when it’s good and ready to do so. Peek not through the keyhole, in other words, lest ye be vexed.

Although, who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind about that. In the spring. When all those hard decisions will need to be made.

Mediums in the movies

By Mark LaFlamme, Staff Writer

* In “The Changeling,” a truly terrifying movie, a psychic medium is called in to contact the ghost of the little boy who has been menacing George C. Scott’s character. Seriously, how wicked do you have to be to menace George C. Scott?

The scene features all of the usual Hollywood stuff: ghost writing, slamming doors, a rattling chandelier . . . It’s only later, as George C. listens to a recording of the medium’s reading, that little ghost boy reveals . . . But never you mind. Go rent the movie and expect to sleep with the light on. Bright.

* The rotund medium in “Poltergeist,” famously played by actress Zelda Rubinstein, is one of the most recognizable movie psychics. She’s also the one who uttered the line “It knows what scares you.” Turns out she was right. I’m pretty scared right now.

It always struck me that this particular medium really didn’t help the family much. In fact, didn’t she just kind of irritate the ghosts and inspire them to utterly trash the pool?

* In “Ghost,” the medium Oda Mae Brown, played by Whoopie Goldberg, was a complete shyster who happened to run into a real ghost. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

I can’t imagine real psychic mediums approve of Oda Mae’s practices, but her exchanges with ghost Patrick Swayze are classic. Plus, in the end, she gets in the middle of a sort of spirit world tryst between Swayze and Demi Moore. That’s just messed up, yo.

* In “The Sixth Sense,” Cole Sear is a psychic who really wishes he wasn’t. The poor kid never sought out a single ghost and yet everywhere he turns, there they are, in his bedroom, in his kitchen, even in his weird indoor tent. 

When I ponder the possibility of real-world clairvoyants, I tend to suspect that it works this way, if it happens at all. The people who develop psychic abilities are probably those who never asked for it, never wanted it and don’t cotton to the idea of inviting people into their kitchens to talk to ghosts. That kind of ability has to be at least half curse, don’t you think? Poor Cole.

Doesn’t help the Bruce Willis character has been dead the whole time.

* “The Legend of Hell House” features a pair of mediums and a bunch of researchers who spend a week in a haunted manor and . . .

You know what? This movie spooks me so badly, I don’t even want to finish writing the description. There is nothing like this flick to get you screaming “will you just get the hell out of that house, idiots” at your television screen.

Also you might cry a little. Happened to a guy I know.

* “The Conjuring” movies are all about psychic mediums doing stupid things in the name of helping people. In the films, ghost hunting team Ed and Lorraine Warren go around picking fights with the nastiest spirits you have ever wanted to encounter.

Just FYI, this is pretty much the exact opposite of how I would go about things if I had these abilities. “Haunted house in Harrisville, you say? I’ll just take 102 and go through Glendale, instead. In fact, you know what? Let’s just skip Rhode Island altogether. Pennsylvania is lovely this time of year.”

I ain’t no hero, man.

* The spanking new movie “Ouija” involves a family of scam artists who accidentally invite authentic spirits into their home. Should have just gone to Paint Nite like a normal family.

I’ve not seen this one, but a horror movie buff I know in Seattle says it’s just full of thrills and chills. All I can tell you is that the last time I used a Ouija board, it was to ask the spirit world if my team would win the Little League championship. Sadly, Chase Fuel lost to Mimi’s Adult Novelties by a score of 47-3. I guess that’s what the spirits meant when they spelled out “LOLOLOLOL.”

* I’m sorry, but “The Amityville Horror” should have been over two seconds after the irritable spirits screamed “Get out!” at the priest. I don’t care how cool those quarter-moon windows are, when a ghost barks at a man of the cloth and blood runs down the stairway, it’s time to fire your real estate agent and move to Motel 6.

But no. You have to be stubborn and call in that creepy husband-wife psychic team to tell you that your house is a gateway to hell. Happy now? Still think that little nook near the fireplace is a great place for the divan? Idiots. Enjoy your Motel 6 wifi connection.

Readers share their psychic stories

Happy house spirits

Back in 2000, after a divorce, a co-worker touched my hand to look at my rings and then she proceeded to tell me that the spirits at the house had left and were happy with what we had done with the house. The elderly ghosts had visited my daughter several times in the past. She also told me there used to be another barn at my mother’s and that a man had hung himself in it. We did some research and found out she was correct. I believe!
— Maureen A. Murphy, Rumford
 

Unexpected motherhood

Early in my marriage, many years ago, a group of friends from work and I went to a psychic as a lark. She told my supervisor something deeply personal that no one knew that shook her deeply. She told me that I would be a mother within the year. I knew she had to be wrong because my husband and I definitely had no plans for pregnancy at that point in our lives. But before the year was over my husband and I had taken in a foster child. The psychic never said I’d have a baby — just that I’d be a mother — and she was right. She also told me something about my mother that I didn’t know and was sure couldn’t be true. When I told my mother about it she confirmed what the psychic had said.
— Diane Fuller, Auburn
 

Medium endorsement

Local medium Denise Correll recently shared messages from my dad. I felt so comforted. I’ve always had good experiences with Denise. She’s able to connect with family members from beyond, inspiring hope and offering an enlightened perspective.

— Meredith Kendall, Lewiston
 

Letting go

I have a good friend who is a medium. . . . He called me one afternoon and asked about a young man who always wore a leather jacket. I know, seems generic. But he then told me that the young man was in my house and kept saying “let go.”
 
A friend of mine came over the day before that because it was the anniversary of his brother’s passing in a vehicle crash. So I called my friend and asked if his brother wore a leather jacket, and he said “ALWAYS.”

When I saw the medium later that evening the first thing he asked me was “Who . . . is Michael?”

Michael was the brother who was killed. His message of “Let go” was so his brother would get rid of the pictures in his phone of the crashed vehicle.

— Angelo Giberti, Lewiston


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