CONFESSIONS OF A PSYCHIC BYSTANDER
by Louisa Oakley Green
When I was growing up in the 1960s, people were focused on the here and now. Social change-civil rights, women's rights, questioning authority-led the way. On a parallel course was a technological revolution that fostered the belief that science could solve all of humanity's problems. Naive? Well, just keep in mind that, during that period, breakthroughs such as the polio vaccine, color television and the Apollo moon landing took place. These milestones may not seem all that remarkable now, but they were considered mind-blowing advances at the time.
Consequently, the prevailing viewpoint was that the paranormal was nothing more than medieval superstition. A product of those times, I didn't believe in anything otherworldly and scoffed at anyone who would. What nonsense!
But the universe has a sense of humor, and so when I met my future husband, Stephen, it never occurred to me that the man I loved would turn out to be one of those crazy psychics. Even more outlandish, I would discover that he came from a family of clairvoyants and mediums.
The Family Connection
When I was doing research for my book, I learned from reading Dr. Diane Hennacy Powell's scholarly work, The ESP Enigma: The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomena, that psychic ability tends to run in families. Psychic brains are wired differently. They're like hypersensitive antennas for paranormal energy. A neuropsychiatrist who taught at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Powell speculated that psychic ability may actually represent an evolutionary advance. This opinion was echoed by one of the professional psychics in my book who told me that in another 500 years, psychic ability will go mainstream. Imagine a psychic society. Not much wiggle room for lying with impunity. Take that, Washington DC!
Dr. Powell is by no means the first scientist to seriously examine the paranormal. Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine and his wife Louisa of Duke University researched and wrote extensively about it from the 1930s through the 1980s. Their books offered compelling accounts of a wide range of paranormal experiences. Dr. Rhine had originally planned a career as a botanist. But when his mentor shared a story involving a neighbor's precognitive dream about her brother's suicide-and how it came to pass in graphic detail-Rhine became obsessed with trying to find a rational scientific explanation. So, he established the Rhine Research Center at Duke University, which continues his intriguing work at an off-campus location today.
I remember attending a family gathering early in our marriage and hearing Stephen's kin trade stories of clairvoyance and mediumship as casually as people exchanging recipes. It was beyond my scope of reality, so I tuned it out. They were a warm, funny and eccentric clan. Let them have their old-world beliefs, I thought condescendingly.
That was more than two decades ago. Over the years, I have become convinced through a gradual parade of inexplicable experiences that paranormal phenomena really do exist. My nephew was a toddler when my dear mother-in-law, Connie, passed. But he continues to have running conversations with her to this day at the age of eleven. He tells us that his late grandfather, Leo, attends all of his swim meets and lets him know how proud he is of his sports abilities.
My sister-in-law-his mother-insists that Connie saved her life one day while she was commuting to work. (I write about this in more detail in my book.) And I've learned that on the rare occasions that my husband says, "Drive carefully!" before I leave the house in the morning, I had better listen.
While I possess little psychic ability-I like to think of myself as a psychic bystander-I have come to appreciate that when we have family gatherings, they will be well attended by relatives on the other side. Apparently, they still have an avid interest in how everyone is doing.
I've spent a good bit of my career writing about scientific topics, so in the summer of 2012, I surprised myself with the idea of writing down all the experiences my husband has had over the last 40 years. Initially, I'd thought I would gather his stories as an heirloom of sorts to hand down to the family. But when I was finished, I had enough material for three chapters of a book. Then it occurred to me: Half the family was psychic. Why not interview everyone? And many of our friends, coincidentally, were also quite gifted. And they had friends. The book almost seemed to assemble itself. I capped off the work by interviewing four professional psychics about their experiences. Two of them asked if they could be in the book because they thought it would-not at first, but eventually-do well. (I was informed that, initially, I would not know how to promote it properly.)
The finished book contains more than 100 true paranormal stories from people of all walks of life, from the CEO of a company to teachers, a nurse, writers, artists, retail workers and other professionals. These are rational, credible people who, in many cases, spoke openly for the first time about their abilities when I interviewed them. While I have grudgingly been moving toward a belief in the paranormal for years, the process of writing this book was what finally solidified it for me.
If you're one of those people who have experienced the paranormal first-hand then, of course, you have some tangible basis for belief. But for me, coming to grips with an unseen world has represented an internal struggle because I've glimpsed it primarily through others. And quite frankly, it has inconveniently shattered my 1960s physical view of reality.
At this point in life, I've come to appreciate there are no accidents. Everything happens for a reason. Consequently, I tend to think that the universe placed me among all of these remarkable individuals to expand my world view. And if that was the grand purpose of it all, then congratulations troublemakers from the other side, lesson learned!
Louisa Oakley Green is the author of Loitering at the Gate to Eternity: Memoirs of a Psychic Bystander, available now in hardcover, softcover and eBook from Amazon.com and a bookstore near you. You can read more about her book at psychicbystander.com.