If The Spirit Moves You

These days, 50 bucks will get you into an `old-fashioned seance' with a premium channeler.

October 30, 2001|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

A sucker for Halloween, our eyes lit up at the City Paper listing for an "Old-Fashioned Seance." None of these New Age seances for us, no sir. Give us a pitch-black room, a red light and the ghost of Harry Houdini ("dead" 75 years) or Elvis any day. We want the earth to move -- or just the table. The listing for the Sunday seance was even a little scary:

Due to threats before previous seances, you must call Spiritual Path for the location.

We called Robin Cushner, founder and leader of Spiritual Path -- the host of the seance. In a previous life, the Baltimore-based, holistic-consciousness group was called Spiritual Path Singles. But the singles scene and the holistic scene didn't mingle well. The name was shortened, but the group is still listed under "singles groups."

Last week, Cushner called back anyone who inquired about the seance. Normally, her group meets for lectures and philosophical discussions; normally she charges a $3 refreshment fee when they meet at her home. The seance is a different deal. From what she's heard, "this is the woo-woo stuff. This is out there," Cushner said. The event costs $50, which should repel any trolling singles. She expected between 15 and 20 people to attend.

This will be Cushner's first seance. Given it's Halloween time, "I thought it would be fun and enlightening," she said. "For people seeking answers, this is just one way."

Seances are conducted by the so-called middle men -- psychics, mediums, spiritists, channelers -- who reportedly pass messages from the spirit world to the mortal world. Depending on your views on the paranormal, "reportedly" is either an appropriate qualifier or another example of a journalist covering his tail. Who wants to be the person who says seances are a hoax then has to answer to the fuming ghost of Elvis? [See Seance, 5f]

For the Baltimore seance, psychic Allyson Walsh of Annapolis was hired for $50. "She's very, very in touch," Cushner said, by way of endorsement. Walsh instructed Cushner to rent a room where it could be pitch black. Her house wouldn't do because it has too many windows. Cushner was told what to expect during the two-hour-plus seance.

"Very often, you will see the spirits, a face or a light," said Cushner, 47. "Possibly you could have the spirits talk to you. Everyone that comes will probably get a message." She stressed, however, that she didn't want to get anyone's hopes up. Still, $50?

On Thursday, Cushner's e-mail arrived. Once at the secret location, if we ask directions, "please say `meeting room.' Don't say seance, please!" Doors will open at 6:45 p.m. "Once we begin, we will not be able to be interrupted." Cushner's e-mail noted all events are cash only.

The seance was set. Let the woo-woo stuff begin.

6:55 p.m., Sunday. Three souls sit outside the top-secret meeting room inside the condominium building in Baltimore. All we need is a fourth for bridge.

7:30 p.m. The seance was supposed to begin at 7:10. Cushner works her cell phone. There are many no-shows. The cider and pumpkin-faced cookies are out on the table. Psychic Allyson Walsh sits patiently. She doesn't look at all witchy, but rather could pass as a soccer mom or real estate agent. Others finally seep in, and we have a quorum of six.

We're asked to read a flier called "A Brief Understanding of Platform Mediumship." Humans have ectoplasm, which is "pulled from your body" to help the medium bring the astral world closer. We're instructed to keep our arms unfolded and our feet on the floor.

8 p.m. The cookies aren't bad. We read about ectoplasm again, as Walsh continues with her biography. As a child, Walsh says she discovered she had the ability to go between the physical and astral world and communicate. Call it a chemical imbalance. Call it a gift. You can call Walsh for a$150-an-hour hourly appointment.

Let's get started, please. We cross our legs. Cushner taps us gently. We uncross. Is it appropriate at a seance to conjure one's $50? The physical money has passed into the astral life, we fear.

8:10 p.m. Woo-woo time. The lights are turned off. A red bulb shines behind a black sweater draped over one of the wicker chairs that form our circle. Don't be surprised if you see fog, specks of colored light or white light. Don't be surprised, Walsh says, if you see ectoplasm rising up and forming a spirit's shape. Indians, too. They are renown for their spirituality. Apparently, the room will be crawling with them.

Kay, a middle-aged woman (we're all middle-aged here), is told she might be taking a trip to the British Isles. OK by her. Walsh, now in a "high alpha state," consults a doctor spirit she calls Dr. Albertson. He's recommending Kay lay off the dairy products. Soy products are getting better every day, Walsh advises.

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