Psychic fair held in Oakland

The lights flicker above the crowd, but no one can really be sure if it’s an electrical fluke or just the spirits being restless. Participants mutter to themselves. Some have first-time jitters while others are seasoned veterans, comparing the accuracy of previous readings and wondering what this one will reveal. Suddenly, a hush falls over the gathering as the medium takes his place at the head of the room. All is silent for a few moments as he closes his eyes and paces slowly back and forth. Then, the reading begins.

Saturday, the Fourth Annual Psychic Fair was in full swing at the First Spiritualist Church of McKeesport. Gallery readings by medium Gary Miller attracted quite a number of people, many curious to see what the spirits had to say about them, their futures, and their loved ones. One by one, the participants received information about some aspect of their lives as Miller listened to what his spirit guides told him about each of them.

Sometimes the details were small, like to watch out for an accident or a fateful meeting soon to come, and other times it seemed like the predictions might span years in advance, about future careers and decisions. While no one could really say for sure (at least, not yet), the readings seemed to have a spooky accuracy.

There were a few participants that hung onto every word, nodding as if in a trance, but for the most part, the attendees were cautious. Many seemed to have been to quite a few psychic gatherings before and they took the predictions with a grain of salt. Miller approves. He wants his readings to make sense, not to force them on people, or dazzle them with parlor tricks. If it does not work out, so be it.

Still, for someone who would not force readings to fit a subject, it was shocking how accurate he could be. Out of a group of 10 people, only one was unable to get a clear match.

While entertaining and occasionally informative, gallery readings were not the only thing that the Psychic Fair had to offer. Tables lined the walls, stocked with all manner of magical trinkets, Tarot cards, runes, spell books, and various pieces of magnetic jewelry to focus energies and encourage meditation.

Walking through the rooms, it felt more like a comfortable get-together of old friends rather than an exotic show of psychic prowess. Every one of the spiritually gifted seemed to know each other and was thrilled to be catching up on news and personal affairs. Psychics come from all over the area to the fair, so this is often the one time a year they have to see each other in person. Healers sip green tea and amicably chat about how the year’s gone, while astrologers comment on the signs of people passing by.

Nestled into the heart of the vendors’ area, across from the feng shui table and next to one of the Tarot readers, was a small booth garlanded with gemstone necklaces and jars of incense. Behind it sat Helen Cheryl Isenberg, ghost hunter.

Isenberg founded the ghost hunting group “Lites of the Paranormal” to learn more about ghosts and the afterlife following the untimely death of her son, Chris, in 2006. She’d been no stranger to the spirit world before that, though.
Ever since the age of 9, she had heard walking upstairs, mysterious knocking that couldn’t be traced to any source, stereos that would rise to a roar from a dull hum, and even had a shadowman in her home. It wasn’t just the houses she had lived in; it had seemed like everywhere she went, inexplicable things would happen. Over time, she learned to live with it, but the death of her son gave her more of an open mind about investigating the afterlife.

At the Western State Hospital’s fourth floor, an abandoned hospital ward for troublesome patients, she recalled one such ghost hunt.

As the patients of the ward had been allowed to keep their children with them, the children were often bored, having nothing to entertain themselves with except a long hallway and a skylight. “We played children’s games in the halls after dark,” Isenberg said, which allowed her group to witness some of these “Fourth Floor Children,” as they poked their heads out of doorways to look at the games.

Want proof? Isenberg has the photos to show it. And sure enough, there they are. A young girl in an old-fashioned dress stares forlornly out of a doorway, and a boy drags a teddy bear behind him.

Ghosts, she said, are made of “energy,” so they can be captured on a digital camera fairly easily, but they need to acquire the energy to do this from an outside source. By taking the heat out of a room, draining batteries or cameras, a ghost can make itself visible. “A really strong entity can even suck out the electrical power,” Isenberg noted.

The most fulfilling part of being a ghost hunter?

“Communication between an intelligent haunt, where you can converse with the spirit,” replied Isenberg. While the ghosts do not tend to stick around too long, that brief connection with the spirit world makes the trip worthwhile.

Still a bit skeptical? Want more proof that ghosts and spirits really exist? Head on down to the First Spiritualist Church of McKeesport at 809 Locust St. The people are friendly, the atmosphere’s welcoming, and hey, who knows what you will find?