In the early 1940s, when my late mother-in-law Connie was growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey, her mother once told her and her three siblings not to leave the house. She said if they did, one of them would get hurt. Connie’s mom, Grandma Dolores, was psychic—a gift that ran through the Italian side of my husband’s family. A typical ten-year-old child, Connie resented her mom for always being right, so she went out anyway.
Unfortunately, that day as she was walking along the top ledge of a wall, she fell and dislocated her shoulder. Not wanting to allow her mother any satisfaction, she tried to cover it up and endured the pain silently through dinner that night. One can only imagine how excruciating sitting through that meal must have been. Finally, she confessed, validating her mom’s prediction.
Many people think that psychic phenomena are nonsense. I certainly had my doubts before I met my husband and his prescient family. But when you live with mystics, you begin to soften in your skepticism.
A few summers ago, my husband Stephen was up late at his computer, writing and surfing the Internet. Due to insomnia, he remained at his desk into the early hours of the morning. Over a period of several hours he began to develop tightness in his chest and was having difficulty breathing, which is unusual for him. About 6 o’clock in the morning, he came upstairs to tell me that he wasn’t feeling well. Eventually, we decided to get him some fresh air at a park nearby. As we walked around a small lake, his breathing became more labored, so we sat down on a bench. His chest pain increased and I nervously suggested a quick ride to the local emergency room. He resisted, and suddenly at 8:15 a.m. all of the pain stopped and was replaced with an immense feeling of physical and emotional relief. His health restored, we returned home. Five minutes after we got in the door, the phone rang.
Stephen’s father Leo had been staying in Connecticut with his girlfriend, Jill, and her family. Jill’s daughter was calling to say that Leo had experienced difficulty breathing that morning, suffered a heart attack, and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The time of death was 8:15 a.m. Stephen was shocked on two levels—first, he was stunned to hear his father had died; second, he now understood that he had shared in his father’s final moments on earth. When my husband received his father's watch from the hospital, there was an additional surprise: it was frozen at 8:15. The timepiece had inexplicably stopped at the instant of his father’s death.
It’s been said that everyone possesses psychic ability, but some people seem to have a more natural affinity for it than others. In her 2008 book, The ESP Enigma: The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomena, former Harvard Medical School professor Diane Hennacy Powell, MD, reported that some researchers believe genetics may be behind psychic ability—something which appears evident in my husband's family. She additionally suggested that psychic abilities might even represent a step forward in the brain’s continuing evolution.
Not everyone who possesses outstanding psychic ability is born with it, though. Sometimes a traumatic event may bring it about. It can develop after a serious illness or injury, as it did with well-known medium George Anderson, or noted Dutch psychic Peter Hurkos. It may occur following a near-death experience, as happened with Joe McMoneagle, who worked in the U.S. Army’s Psychic Intelligence Unit at Fort Meade, Maryland for ten years. These types of events, Powell posits, may change the structure and function of the brain.
Altered brains may have abilities that normal brains do not, she adds. Einstein thought of the space-time continuum as a place where all time coexists, meaning that the past, present, and future all exist at once. The “normal” brain is set up to experience time as a series of linear moments. Hypothetically, without the linear constraints of the brain, which may be weaker in psychics and mediums, it may be possible to see across time into the past or future.
Experiments at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California found that psychic ability is increased in an environment in which electromagnetic radiation is blocked. Researchers measured this by placing subjects in Faraday cages, an environment that blocks electromagnetic radiation.
Scientists have long been fascinated with psychic phenomena. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, established a psychic research facility in 1935, which eventually moved to an off-campus location where it remains today. The founder, botanist Dr. Joseph B. Rhine, turned to parapsychology research after his college professor and mentor at the University of Chicago shared a personal account of an intriguing paranormal experience. In a film interview, Dr. Rhine recounted his mentor’s story, which took place in the 1920s.
As the story goes, a young couple who lived near the professor knocked on his door—many people didn’t have telephones in those days—to ask a favor. The woman had experienced a disturbing, vivid dream the night before in which she saw her brother go into his barn and shoot himself in the head. She was, understandably, so distraught by this vision that she wanted to go to his farm to make sure all was well. She asked the professor to drive them there. When they arrived, they walked into the barn and found her brother just as she had seen him in her dream, dead of a gunshot wound to the head. From the moment he heard that tale, Dr. Rhine became obsessed with establishing a scientific explanation for what had happened.
Today, the Rhine Research Center is respected as a facility that scientifically conducts parapsychology and consciousness studies. They have unmasked psychic frauds as well as validated genuine psychic events.
Joining that institution are many other prominent research facilities, universities and governmental organizations worldwide that take psychic abilities seriously enough to funnel millions of dollars into them for ongoing research. So, if you think there might be something to clairvoyance and mediumship, you’re not alone. My husband’s family serves as a living example. The following story illustrates an instance when their preternatural gifts spilled over to my psychically challenged side of the family.
My father had passed and we were planning his funeral. Feeling sentimental, we decided to call the minister who had led our church congregation when I was growing up. It had been many years since we had attended that house of worship, so our memory of the minister there was frozen in time. Little did we know that the good reverend had long since retired, was well into his eighties, and was now somewhat eccentric.
We met at the funeral home, an old Colonial mansion filled with the overly sweet cologne of flower arrangements wafting on stale currents of perpetual air conditioning. At one point during the wake, the minister asked everyone to be seated for a brief service. I sat down in the front row between my mother and husband, bracing for tears. Then something peculiar happened that broke the tension of the moment.