I’m a skeptic. What that means is that I live life with a philosophy of “show me”. This helps me avoid scams, snake oil, and get-rich-quick schemes.
I once had a friend who told me that when I got an idea, act on it immediately- because it is out in the flux and someone else will get it soon. This was followed by debates with a friend about the flux — the energy in the universe. He says it grows and shrinks based on one’s behavior. I felt like it is static and just moves around among people. However, I felt this had some kind of psychic undertones, so I didn’t spend a lot of time contemplating it. It was all woo woo to me.
There was one phenomenon I experienced regularly. When I first met someone, I had an immediate revelation about them. Were they good? Were they evil? My instincts proved to be 100% correct. I studied more of energy, a lot about body language, and some face reading. I needed answers.
And then I met Annie.
A friend from work had invited me to a Creativity class. It was in Annie’s living room over several Wednesday nights.
Annie was 84 when I met her. I learned that Annie was an accomplished woman with a storied career. She was famous in the 1960s on Austin TV and radio — with her twin sister, with whom she wrote a book. She was awarded the National Organization of Women’s highest award — Woman Of the Year. An award in her name is presented annually by Women Communicators of Austin organization. And so much more. Yet, she treated all her students as peers and shared amazing creativity.
We started class with some simple exercises. I still have a framed haiku I made by using scissors and two contrasting colored papers. The exercises got progressively more intense, and then… then Annie asked us to participate in some creative mind-reading.
The first exercise was ESP and required us to pair up. We each had a magazine and found a picture in it that spoke to us. The other person would face away from us, and we would “send” them the picture. Afterwards, we ran around the room and each person told of the picture they “received”. There were a few hits that seemed close, so my skeptic was on alert. My partner got nothing at all, and I felt quite impotent.
Then it was my turn. I had seen two pictures. The first was fleeting, but it was like an abstract painting in a modern art museum, made up of a series of white triangles and white circles. When it faded, I saw a square image with green, brown, and grey elements. In the bottom left corner was a smaller black square. My partner showed the image she had chosen. It was a photo of hippos in a pond, surrounded by grass and dirt — green, brown, and grey. And in the top right corner was a smaller black and white photo of the same place from a different angle…
Then she said she was not sure what the abstract white art was. Almost immediately she went “ooh ooh I remember!”. She flipped the magazine to the back inside page and said “this is the image I was originally thinking to send you”. It was the Sydney Opera House!
Annie! What have you done to me?
The next exercise was called psychometry. Psychometry is defined as the supposed ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. We had been asked to bring an object that was special to us and place it in a paper shopping bag. The bag was then sent around the room while we closed our eyes and reached in to retrieve an object. We were then asked to focus on the object and remember any images that appeared in our minds.
We all opened our eyes after a few moments, and it didn’t seem like psychometry worked in that environment either. There were a couple of close-ish hits, but not anything of note. Until it came around to me. I was holding a plastic bag with a mother-of-pearl seashell. I had seen two images while my eyes were closed, and I recounted them. First, there was a clear image of my father’s engineering workshop on the property where I grew up. I had not had a memory of that in many years. The second image was of a beach in Oregon where I had stayed one weekend and beach-combed for a while. The owner of the shell said she was an engineer by trade, and the shell had been found on a beach in Northern California within sight of the Oregon border.
Annie! What have you done to me?
Fast forward a couple of years, and I spent an evening with a friend of mine at dinner and then a coffee. I told her my psychometry story and she asked “do me do me!”. I tried to get out of it by claiming I had a headache, and because I was not sure whether I could repeat the exercise. She insisted and we got started. I “performed” this feat for her three times. I don’t recall the first two, other than I saw two images and when I described them, her mouth gaped open in disbelief. The third time, she placed something in my hand that I could not see. I closed my eyes, and saw one image. If you can imagine a sculpture on a garden wall — usually made of tin — of a sun with a face on it. What I saw clearly was two of the sun rays. Once again, her mind was blown. I opened my hand and there was a bracelet. She told me that it was her favorite, but had not worn it in two months. The last time she was wearing it, she was making paper sculptures. That day, her sculpture was a sun, and her bracelet got caught in the sun, and tore two sun rays completely off…
I may still be a skeptic, but I am now obsessed with psychic things. Real ones, not the 4000 psychics who failed to predict the bankruptcy of the Psychic Friends Network in 1998. I remain curious, intrigued, skeptical, but now I am more open to the possibilities.
Who have I become?
Annie! it’s all your fault…
Annie was told at:
- Hyde Park Storytelling in Austin on October 21, 2023
- NSA Austin Chapter Meeting on November 3, 2023