- The woman in the white dress
slipped out of her shoes, explaining briefly: "I'm from
asked for silence, then began to move through the crowd - haltingly,
as if invisible strings were tugging at her from opposite ends of
the room. Finally, she stopped in front of a man in the second
row and spoke:
"Do you wish to receive a message?" He nodded.
The woman paused, her hand resting lightly on the man's shoulder,
her head bent slightly forward, her eyes fixed and distant.
When she began to speak, it was in a deliberate, measured voice, and
the crowd of a hundred or so listened to her intently.
"There must not be tears that are shed for the loss of
that one who is about to leave this earth," she said to
the man. "Your wife must know that her mother is only
going to step from one place of being to another. The mother
does not wish to remain here. Her soul is ready, and has
already said goodbye.
"Your friend that sits next to you must be told that there is
money which will come into his life, a great sum...."
woman in white spoke to the man a few moments longer, and then began
moving again, tracing a slow, preoccupied semicircle through the
room, stopping now and then to deliver other messages. She
paused in front of a heavyset, gray-haired woman to share what she
said was a message from the spirit of an American Indian:
"I come to you, my old friend, and I speak to you in love and
peace. Your mind has been in darkness, and you have overcome a
monumental obstacle. Through illness, through periods of
having and not having, I have been there, and I am walking with you
now. Continue fighting. It is not worth leaving the
earth. The opportunities for your soul are
all the words that might be used to describe those messages and that
scene, "routine" is probably the last one to come to
mind. But routine they are: Like clock work, every
second Sunday of the month, Patricia Mischell performs
"shines," she calls it at the Sheraton Inn in Springdale.
is a self- professed psychic, the area's most well known
practitioner. She teaches classes on psychic phenomenon;
appears regularly on the "Bob Braun Show", is negotiating
for a nationwide cable television show to be called
"Patricia", and is president and founder of "The
World of ESP."
"The World of ESP" is a sort of psychic flea market.
Every second Sunday, besides attending Mischell's lecture-
demonstration, devotees can visit a ballroom next door - all for a
single cover charge of $6. There, from circular tables
arranged around the room, dozens of psychics, astrologers, and
parapsychologist ply their specialties. This is the place for
people who need to have their auras "cleaned,' a service
provided by woman who makes fussy little brushing movements around
the outlines of her patrons. This is the place for someone who
wants to visit, under hypnotic suggestion, a previous incarnation;
for "Star Trek" fans who would like to tune into a man who
says he can perform a "Valcun mind meld"; for tarot card
readings; healings; dream interpretations; information on UFOs; and
the chance to study plaster casts of supposed Bigfoot tracks.
- There's more, but
that much is probably enough- enough to make most people conceive of
Patricia Michelle and her band of ESPers as the kind of folks who
resemble Elsa Lanchester in "Bride of Frankenstein"
and are usually accompanied by the theme from "The Twilight
Zone" when they walk into a room.
this is reality - which does not come equipped with special effects
or a spooky soundtrack; where the mundane and the supernatural hang
out together like inseparable old pals. If you want to have
your aura cleaned at "The World of ESP," for example, you
have to abide by the same rule that applies at the Laundromat: come
early, or wait in line. Mundane. Supernatural.
not all of the psychic messages delivered at the World of ESP are of
great spiritual significance. During a question- and-answer
session at Mischell's lecture, most audience members had everyday
concerns on their minds. A teenager asked Mischell to look
into the future to see if he was going to get a new career.
(Her answer: Sorry, not for a while.) Others asked about
their health, their business ventures, whether they should break up
with troublesome boyfriends or girlfriends,. will my daughter
ever find a husband? Where is the watch I misplaced? One
woman waved two letters in the air and asked what to do about
them. Mischell raised her hands as if to protect herself from
the letters. Then she advised the woman that they had been
written in a jealous rage, and told her to burn them, flush the
ashes down the toilet, and say a silent prayer for the person who
question and answer session was part "Dear Abby," part Amy
McPherson. It was a little bit country; it was sort of old
like the carnival ballroom full of ESPers it was only a fleeting
hint about the personality of Patricia Mischell, barefoot psychic
from West Virginia.
Here is how Mischell says she learned that she was psychic:
Seven years ago, she was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
It was serious enough that the doctor was beginning
- to talk about
wheel-chairs. A friend told her about an aging psychic
in Cincinnati who might be able to help her. When
she went to see the man, he told her: "You are
psychic. You could do a reading on me." She thought
to herself: "this man must be crazy. I'm in no
shape to be doing anything for anybody. Can't he see I'm
falling apart?" But
something told her to go ahead and try it. So she moved closer
to him, and before she had time to think, images of this life seemed
to come flooding into her. She told him she saw him with a
teen-ager who appeared to be his son. She said she saw the boy
going away at the age of 16. It didn't seem to make any sense
- he seemed to old to have a son that age but when she looked up,
the old psychic was crying. "that was my nephew you
saw," he told her. "I raised him like a
son. He died of heart failure when he was 16."
incident with the psychic was a turning point in her life. She
began reading voraciously - books about developing mental powers,
positive thinking, meditation. She read about a mental
exercise that consisted of visualizing an image of herself with a
healthy body. It seemed to work. Her physical condition
began to improve. Eventually, the arthritis cleared up
Today, at the age of 46 Mischell is combination of ambition,
earthiness, and glamour. Her clear, gray eyes seem to radiate
sedateness and strength. In her rare moments of relaxation,
she tinkers with houseplants, worries about her three children, and
fusses with the house cats in her home/office in suburban Fairfield.
Born and raised a Catholic, she believes her psychic powers are a
natural gift of God. She insists that she herself is not a
phony, and says she has, in fact, blown the whistle on unscrupulous
psychics a number of times. Once, she says, she called police
when one of her students confessed that she had fallen prey to this
psychic scam: A "psychic" convinced the student that
she (the student) had a hex, or curse, over her head. To
remove it, the psychic said she needed $500 and a live
chicken. The psychic killed the chicken, took the money, and
instructed the student to take the dead chicken and run naked
through a cemetery with it that night.
- After hearing
the story, Mischell called the police, and the phony psychic was
arrested for fraud.
television producer once told Mischell he wanted to put
"chills" in the audience during her show "in case
your psychic stuff isn't working." The same producer also
wanted to jazz up her image. "the people out there want
magic," he said. "they want to see you pull rabbits
out of hats."
- Mischell refused to perform with plants in the audience; she also
declined to pull rabbits out of hats. Such props, she says,
aren't necessary for someone who can do what she does.
People who have met Mischell tend to agree.
Braun says that he was amazed when she predicted, accurately, that
he was going to land a new recording contract this fall. Doe
Koppana, of Hyde Park, says that on two occasions when she was
seriously ill, Mischell was able to accurately diagnose her ailments
where doctors had failed. Theresa Westover, of New Jerusalem
(a catholic-charismatic community of about 400), went to see
Mischell after her daughter had been abducted. Mischell told
her that her daughter was safe, was living in a warm climate with
her father, and would be returned in June of that year. She
was off by exactly one year: in June of the next year,
the child was returned home from Orlando, FL.
Attempting to prove or disprove whether Mischell has a psychic gift
would take a longer story and a far more scientific approach.
But assuming that she does have a gift, what is it? And how
does it work? Here's how she explains it: When she
"reads" a person, she feels as if she is mentally
projecting herself into a kind of time tunnel, in which portions of
that person's past, present and future are revealed to her.
"All of a sudden," she says, "everything else
falls away, and I am only right there with that person's - I guess
you would call it their soul. I don't even see the person's
face or their body any more. It's like daydreaming; it's like
looking at pictures. And there doesn't seem to be any sort of
time with that; so I can go back, and I can move into the
the pictures, says Mischell, are occasionally misleading and often
fragmented. Mischell says she usually "sees" a
jumble of images when she reads someone: a date, a wedding ring, a
house, a geographic detail. Interpreting the images is another
step. If she sees an image of a person who appears to be
hollow or full of holes, for example, she might interpret that to
mean that the person is psychologically exhausted, in need of
affection and support. If she "sees" a wedding ring
that is hovering about someone's hand, she might interpret it to
mean they are about to get married.
fragmented images can be frustrating, particularly when Mischell is
trying to assist police with missing persons cases. "I
want to help so much, and it bothers me that I can't see more
specific things," she says. "When you look into that
dimension, you get pieces of things - a well, a body
- of water, the color red, a
station wagon. Why can't I see a license number, something
- Sometimes, working on police cases has other, more frightening
sat in the car from which Jerry Stanfield was abducted,
- trying to get a sense of
what had happened to her. Police would later learn that
Stanfield had been murdered, but for those long days of not
knowing last winter, Mischell tried to mentally contact her.
only result was that, night after night, she would wake up
terrified, convinced that she was about to die. "I've
been through hell", she says.
"One of the most painful and important lesson I've had to learn
is to keep working on myself and on my own consciousness, to clean
up all the feeling of revenge and prejudice I might have," she
says. "Otherwise I can't do a very good job at helping
other people work out their problems." Mischell reasons
that a psychic is just like a doctor or a lawyer: all the
professional skills in the world are useless if the person who
yields them is a spiritual cripple.
wall in the basement-office of Mischell's home seems to attest to
her commitment to keep herself mentally fit. The wall is
filled with diplomas and certifications: Silva Mind Control;
Psycho- Cybernetics; Member, Positive Living Foundation; Member,
Astarian Brotherhood; Graduate, the Institute of metaphysics;
Graduate, Adventures in Attitudes. Mischell says that one
reason the diplomas are so important to her is that she never made
it past the eight grade in school. The courses represent a
broad quest for self awareness one that has extended well beyond
of the courses she took included an exercise that seemed ridiculous,
at first: she was told to look in the mirror every morning for
30 days and say, "I love you." It wasn't
easy. She remembered her grandmother telling her that it was
wrong for people to waste affection on themselves; it was vanity; it
was a sin. But she kept doing the exercise, and one day, the
eyes that looked back at her said, "I love you,
too." It was then, she says, that she first started to
really assert herself, because she realized that the eyes in the
mirror had seen something that was worth defending.
- Now, when she has
classes about psychic powers, she makes her students do the same
exercise - "Because I know that they can't keep looking into
their own eyes without seeing something great within
Interviews with several of Mischell's students and patrons turned up
a curious theme; most tended to talk more about her spiritual
counseling than her psychic abilities. "What I got from
Patricia was much, much more than helping me find my daughter,"
said Theresa Westover. "The biggest thing she gave me was
this: I immediately recognized in Pat a deep
spirituality. I knew I could learn from this woman. I
always used to think you had to be a nun to be spiritual. To
me, Pat represented a lay person who was attractive, sexy, and also
Another patron, Middletown restaurateur Anne Slezak, went to see
Mischell for the first time 10 years ago. It was during a low
point in Slezak's life: her son-in-law, a young man of 30 had
just died. "As old as I am, you'd think I'd be used to
that idea of death," she said. "But I just couldn't
understand why a young man had been taken away, when he was just
like a flower beginning to bloom. I was bitter with
God. I'd talk to nuns and priests about it, and they would
just say, 'Well, that's God's will.' I kept asking, 'Why would
something like this be his will?' "Well, I went to Pat,
and she explained it to me in such a way that she just made me
understand. I don't now how. She changed my life.
She helped me to handle that thing about death. I have a more
positive outlook now."
"If you focus just on her psychic abilities," says
Westover, "you miss the best part of Pat. By just giving
people a few quick answers, you aren't really solving
anything. She gets down deeper than that. She gives
of Mischell's students finds it a little incongruous that she
continues to associate with mind molders and Bigfoot buffs.
"Patricia is really at a much higher level than a lot of those
people," said the student. "I think she needs to
realize that she has outgrown them,"
Sometimes, Mischell herself seems headed toward that
conclusion. "I truly believe that my work is a
ministry," she says. "One of the things that has
happened is that all of a sudden, being psychic doesn't seem so
important anymore. It becomes bigger than that. What is
beginning to take over for me is an overwhelming desire to
serve. I think I can do something - maybe not big, but
something for people, for humanity."
When Mischell was told, seven years ago, that she was psychic, she
didn't even know how to spell the word. She looked it up,
wrote it down on a scrap of paper, and carried it around in her
Today, that word is printed neatly on her stationery and her
business cards. But she admits that sometimes, it still seems
a little alien to her: psychic, "If I were just psychic,"
she says, "I wouldn't be where I am today."