A supernatural skeptic's surprise

At the 16th annual Canastota Psychic Fair, our reporter sat down with a spiritualist, who knew more about her than she realized possible.

I sit at the table, shifting uncomfortably in my seat. Am I supposed to ask a specific question or give a prompt? I’ve never done anything like this before, and frankly, I’m not sure Sally Gewinner — or any of the other psychics in this room—has any supernatural gifts. For the most part, I expect the short blonde woman to say some vague generalizations about what my future holds – landing the job of my dreams or finding Mr. Right. At the same time, I worry that she’ll see something horrible in my future and insist on refunding my money. Maybe this one only happens in the movies, but it’s why I’ve avoided psychics like the plague.

"The better the connection you feel, the more you get out of your reading."
— Coleen Shaughnessy

Before, when I had imagined a psychic, I pictured an old woman with a silk turban gazing into a murky crystal ball. Looking around now at the 14 psychics set up inside the Greystone Castle at the 16th annual Canastota Psychic Fair, I don’t see anything stereotypical. Window light filled the castle’s main ballroom, as the psychics sat at tables in the room’s center, offering strangers spiritual, tarot, stone, shamanic and medium readings. Booths and displays line the ballroom’s walls, where eight other vendors sell new-age items, such as, oils, gems and energy crystals.

After paying the $8 entrance fee, I went into the castle’s ballroom and began circling the large space, trying to decide which psychic to choose. After about 15 laps around the room’s center, I stop at Coleen Shaughnessy’s table to find out her specialty. “Take a look around the room,” she said. “Feel it out. See if anyone stands out to you, and go to them. The better the connection you feel, the more you get out of your reading.”

I circle the room one last time before meeting eyes with Sally Gewinner, who specializes in spiritual-guided readings and animal communication. Maybe it was simply the eye contact, but I felt a connection, so I go to her.

Sitting across from her, I wait for Gewinner to make a move. Her penetrating and concentrated sky blue eyes unnerve me. I struggle to keep eye contact. As we start our timed 15-minute reading Gewinner prompts me to shuffle a small deck of playing cards and pick one. After I clumsily split the deck and shuffled it, I pick the nine of hearts from the middle. “Add up the numbers in the days in a year,” Gewinner says. “Three plus six plus zero gives you nine.” The nine of hearts typically signals some sort of completion and represents wholeness, she explains. She then asks if this resonates with me in any way, and unexpectedly, it does. As a senior, who just registered for my last semester of classes, I’ve thought more and more about my numbered days at Syracuse University. A part of my life, and my seemingly permanent role as a student, is coming to an end.

Then, we are both quiet. I look up at Sally, who’s looking over my right shoulder. Her steadied gaze makes me feel self-conscious. I alternate from resting my hands on the table to folding them in my lap. Then, after a pause, she looks back at me. “I keep seeing a spinning globe with you,” she says. “I see you traveling around the world.” Stunned, I look into her eyes. I tell her that I plan to move to Sydney, Australia, after I graduate.

The silence descends upon us again. This time, I’m wondering how she could have guessed that. Yes, I suppose traveling is common for someone my age, but it doesn’t feel like a coincidence. After gazing past my right shoulder again, Gewinner’s eyes return to mine. She tells me that she feels a masculine figure with me. “It feels like someone extremely close to you. A brother. Older. And even though you two are very close, he looks out for you. He has supported you a lot in the past and he will continue to do so in the future.” My eyes prick with tears and I start to sweat. She’s right. I have a brother, Matthew, who is three years older than me. But despite our age difference, my mom always says that he and I are like twins.

What’s more surprising than Gewinner knowing all of this stuff about me is my reaction. I feel thoroughly shaken. Maybe it’s because I didn’t expect much from the experience, or maybe it was the fact that someone else was accessing and exploring very personal avenues of my life that I rarely share with others.

This goes on for another six minutes. Each of her visions brings up something more and more personal. “Coming up here for school was the right thing for you. You wouldn’t be where you are today if you had stayed closer to home,” she encourages. Gewinner pauses again before looking me in the eye. “I can sense your mom. She is so proud of you,” she says. My eyes prick with tears again, but I will myself not to cry. “And… your dad,” she adds hesitantly. “He loves you. He may not show it, but he does.”

The alarm goes off signaling that my 15 minutes are up. “Is there anything else you’d like to ask me about?” Gewinner asks, looking up at me. Speechless, I shake my head, smile and thank her.

My session with Gewinner wasn’t filled with predictions about my future. But she validated details about my relationships and the direction of my life. Not to sound gullible, but the reading changed my perspective on psychics. I walked in a skeptic, and left with a newfound appreciation.

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