Call it spring fever. Call it laziness. But I'm going to plagiarize myself and reproduce one of my columns: Baron It All Issue #72. All rights reserved etc.
Read an interesting article the other day about a Toronto-area woman who helps police all over North America solve crimes via her psychic ability. We’ve all read similar stories. This one was neither more, nor less credible than others I’ve read. I have a pretty open mind. Some might even say its doors are permanently ajar. They can hear the wind blowing.
Hahaha. I made a self-deprecating joke.
What was kind of neat about this particular woman, aside from the obvious, was her husband. He met her when she was called in on one of her earliest cases, some 20-odd years ago. He was a Homicide cop assigned to the case and highly skeptical of her abilities. Guess she convinced him. And then some.
The story got me thinking about psychic or paranormal stuff. I’ve mentioned in an earlier column about my great-grandmother, Big Baba, being a card and tea-leaf reader. During my teens I was fascinated by all things paranormal; devouring books by Hans Holzer (the ghost hunter), Edgar Cayce, Ruth Montgomery and others. I exhausted the local library’s store of books about astrology, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, telekinesis, telepathy, psychometry and spiritualism.
My then-future-ex-wife and I had our charts done by an astrologer. We got his phone number from an ad. The only information he wanted was our place and times of birth. No names or other identifying info. He gave us an appointment about a week later. Each of us received a long, detailed reading. I recall being amazed when he recounted a near-drowning experience I had when I was 10. At that time, only about three people on the planet knew about it. I hadn’t even told my parents.
I began to read books by Herman Hesse, Kahlil Gibran and Carlos Castaneda. Along about this time I was also experimenting with mind-altering compounds. (Hay! It was the late 60s - early 70s.) Finally, one nasty night I learned that thinking about paranormal stuff while under the influence of certain substances was a Very Bad Thing.
So I pretty much stopped doing both, or either, for a very long time.
In the intervening decades I’ve had the occasional, outside-the-norm experience. I expect many of you have as well. Here’s a couple that, although not overly dramatic, stand out:
1 - I was in my early 20s and a recent university graduate, living in London, Ontario. I was (and still am) an inveterate people-watcher. It’s part of the writer-thing to observe and speculate; to mentally file quirks and tidbits of conversation, tone of voice and mannerisms.
I was sitting at the back of a bus (from where one can see everybody), on my way downtown. At a stop a girl of about six or seven, a woman, and a man got on board. I glanced at each in turn and almost physically recoiled when I saw the man. I felt the blood drain from my face. I felt sick.
There was nothing obviously loathsome about his features necessarily. He was of medium height, dark-haired and had a sallow, slightly waxy complexion. I realized that I just very, very strongly felt evil emanating from him. That’s not a word I use a lot but it was the only one that fit.
The woman and girl sat in one seat, the man opposite them. None of them exchanged a word. They got off one stop before me and I was struck by how passive the little girl was, as was the woman I assumed to be her mother. Both walked, eyes lowered, to the exit. I glanced away as the man neared, not wanting to make eye contact, however briefly, with him.
I’ve never felt such a strong, negative visceral reaction before or since and hope I never do. I’ve often wondered about that woman and girl.
2 - For several years my ex and I lived in an old house built in the early 1900s. We lived on the main floor and basement, another couple on the two upper floors.
The basement had cold spots; well-known to ghost story readers. The temperature could change dramatically one step away from wherever you were. The spots were not constant and they existed all four seasons of the year. I grew used to them for the most part, although every now and then, when alone down there at 2:00 a.m. watching a late show, I would get creeped out. Once or twice, I actually ran upstairs when I felt a cold spot starting to surround my chair.
Our main floor kitchen had a door added to separate it from the front entrance, used by the upstairs couple. We were friends and visited often. When in the kitchen, we could hear them come downstairs, or enter their front door from outside. Practically every day we’d hear their footsteps approach that kitchen door as they visited.
Late one night, three or four of us were sitting around our kitchen table talking when three very loud knocks suddenly rattled that door. We all started because nobody had heard approaching footsteps, either from the neighbour’s stairs or front door.
I took three steps and opened the door. Nobody there. Nobody going upstairs. Nobody going outside from the front door. We hadn’t been playing music, just quietly talking. It was late and we would most certainly have heard someone approaching and leaving that door.
As the wise sage Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
But you can’t always explain what you observe.