Wouldn't you think the organizers of an Intuitive Showcase and Natural Health Expo would know a bit about you before you showed up?
When just such an event came to Knoxville last weekend, though, I resisted the obvious cliche. I decided that instead of testing the Expo representatives' psychic ability ("I expected you to know I'd be redeeming my admission coupon"), I would try out my powers of prognostication on them. So before arriving at the Holiday Inn Select in Cedar Bluff, I took five minutes to focus on what I thought might happen at this gathering of psychics, mediums, astrologers, numerologists, and holistic and natural healers, assembled to speak, sell, and—if you bought separate tickets—give individual readings. Predictably—well, this is what happened, and it was anything but predictable:
Prediction #1: A woman with long dark hair and dangly earrings would sell me an entrance ticket.
Verdict: Not really.
The lobby and halls of the hotel look just the same as they do when you're there for happy hour or a financial seminar: quiet carpets, brassy accents, and white table cloths beneath plastic pitchers of ice water. Even the promenade to the conference rooms looks familiar—and the indoor pool in the middle is open, complete with a "tourists from Ohio"-looking family of four tip-toeing to take a dip through the sage-cushion and wicker furniture strategically arranged for one-on-one chats. That's where she sits, at a plain, covered table beside the booth with the techno-disco machine designed to photograph auras, and across from a vendor with huge stacks of books by forensic scientist Bill Bass, a speaker at the Expo. She takes my money, and she does have long hair—but strawberry blonde, swept into an up-'do, and no earrings. The woman I envisioned is there, though, inside the modest room that serves as exhibitors' hall, past a man sounding a melodic bell with various crystals strewn on the floor beneath a massage table. She's staffing a booth for Knoxville's own Sacred Site Journeys, on their way to Egypt in '09, earrings dangling almost to her shoulders, brown eyes snapping and alive, charcoal hair cascading,
Prediction #2: I would hear a joke about "but aren't you supposed to already know that?" within 10 minutes of arriving.
The people attending, pitching, and presenting are not joshing about their powers of clairvoyance or natural healing abilities—or the tools they employ. They're not self-righteous, neither are they flip—more cheery and matter-of-fact.
"I use a third eye, too," a woman with a kind smile and bright green smock top tells a man with tight-combed ponytail and Anglers Anonymous T-shirt. "I wear it when I go to bed."
"A negative portalway—it is unseen to the naked eye, but was captured on a digital camera" spells out a poster at the Property Elements vendor.
"I'm expecting martial law by the end of the year and that scares me no end," asserts a fast-talking gray-haired fellow from the speaker's podium behind an accordion-pleated wall. No one bats an eyelash.
He continues. He's Curtis Folts, a channel intuitive from Roswell, N.M., channeling the archangel Uriel, his brochure bio says. A real estate agent in real life, Folts gets in a few more licks, about aliens and himself. "If I'm a whack job, that's okay."
Prediction #3: Someone would quickly figure out I'm only mildly interested in extra-sensory perception, and flat-out skeptical of channeling, "crossing over," and other New-Agey beliefs.
Verdict: Wrong again.
Everyone at the conference treats me like a fellow traveler, so much so that when Zenobia Simmons, a New York psychic, begins to speak, she insists that I draw in to a smaller group with the others. When she says, "I'm always the one in the crowd that the crazy person comes and talks to, you know?" the tiny, middle-aged woman next to me with a careful coif leans over to confide, "Me, too, and I'm not at all psychic!"
I'm paired off with a lovely, gentle woman dressed all in white and tan and crochet for some ESP exercises. I'm leaving soon, so Simmons lets us go first, in the front of the room, next to her as she stands in her African print dress and impossibly tall, light purple heels.
I try to subliminally communicate a number to my partner. Think! Focus! Eight!
"10," she says.
A color, then. "Purple,"
"Green," she says.
Time to reverse roles. Absorb! Listen! "16," I say.
"Six," she says.
"Red," I say.
"Red," she answers.
Now, a name. "Chris, Samantha, but no, then I got John," I say.
"John," she says.
His relationship to her? "Son," I say. No. "Darn, it's your husband, isn't it?"
"It is," she says.
My confidence buoyed, I try one more time on the way out. "Can I ask you a rude question?" I ask the woman who is still serenely selling tickets. "Certainly," she says.
"Is that, beautiful hair color, um, is it natural?"
"Well, yes, except for a few strands it's pretty much the color I was born with," she answers pleasantly.
"Oh," I say. "Never mind."