(Illustration: Steven Charles Manale)

(Illustration: Steven Charles Manale)

The séance was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and anyone arriving 10 minutes late would be turned away, so I left the office early and headed straight to my friend’s house off the Graham L to smoke a bowl. Or two. Or three.

After blazing, we strolled over to the secret location e-mailed to me by Certified Séance Conductor & Psychic Medium, Reverend Betsy Cohen. Two blocks away from what turned out to be her apartment, my friend detected the smell of sage (I was too high to notice). Betsy would later claim that my friend hadn’t actually smelled anything — she had experienced a psychic impression.


Betsy opened the door in a very welcoming manner and asked us to remove our sneakers. After taking off our “foot prisons,” as I once heard a Canadian hippie call them, I walked into the living room to see ten fellow séancers (séancees?) sitting in a circle — I instantly regretted smoking so much pot. Maybe being high wasn’t the proper state of mind for summoning spirits. I don’t even like running into ex-boyfriends stoned, let alone my dead grandma.

Was I the only one having a panic attack? It appeared so. I tried to calm down by not focusing on myself. Appearance-wise, the circle was pretty diverse: there was a hot hipster chick and her equally hot male companion, a tough bearded guy and his girlfriend, a plain-looking girl, and a few middle-aged women who looked overly eager to get in touch with their psychic abilities and most likely owned multiple cats.

Betsy kicked things off with a long lecture on psychic impressions and how to tell if you’re having one. Something to the effect of: if you suddenly smell strawberries and your dead mother used to pick strawberries, that’s a psychic impression . . .but if you thought of strawberries because you saw a bunch earlier in the day, that’s not a psychic impression. (The only impression I was getting was that of boredom.)

She then turned off the lights and led us all into group meditation. Suddenly I was thanking God (or whatever spirits were in the room) that I had smoked weed. The meditation was relaxing, and I didn’t want it to end, but I was also excited for the spiritual readings.

(Illustration: Steven Charles Manale)

(Illustration: Steven Charles Manale)

Betsy started with the plain girl. She seemed indifferent to everything the psychic was saying. The woman after her seemed to get the most accurate reading of the bunch. She was told that her father was there and that he was in a military uniform. Indeed her father had passed away, and was in the military.

Then it was time for my session. Betsy asked if I practiced any Native American traditions. I don’t. Then she said that in the next few months I would be going to a wedding. True, but I’m in my twenties: it’s pretty predictable (not to mention annoying) that I’d have a wedding on the docket.

This is when my session took a weird turn. Betsy announced that I needed to learn to say no to that third slice of pizza. I weigh 120 pounds: it’s almost impossible for me to eat three pieces of pizza. Would she have said this to an overweight girl if she believed it to be true? Was she accusing me of being bulimic? Maybe she smelled the weed on me and assumed I have the munchies all the time?

Her introductory spiel included a whole section on metaphors, so at first I thought she was being symbolic. But then she accused me of gluttony so many times that it got awkward. I spent the rest of the night trying not to think about that guy in “Seven” who ate himself to death.

Then Betsy told me that my great grandpa had come to say hi. I’ve never met this man, but I know he wasn’t the alcoholic Freemason she made him out to be. This incorrect information fascinated me. I had given Betsy my full name when I RSVP’d. My Facebook profile isn’t private. She easily could have found those tagged photos of me at a friend’s funeral and used them to convince me that she was speaking to a deceased loved one of mine. But she hadn’t done that. Whether Betsy is a legitimate medium or not, one thing is for sure: she certainly believes she is.

(Illustration: Steven Charles Manale)

(Illustration: Steven Charles Manale)

Though my reading was off, others seemed more than satisfied with the results of theirs. When the lights were turned back on, the room full of strangers no longer seemed so unfamiliar. I felt as though we had all bonded. You know, the kind of bond people get from sitting in a circle for hours while a Certified Séance Conductor & Psychic Medium attempts to talk to dead people. That kind of bond.

Betsy passed a bowl of walnuts around the circle. I decided against eating all of the nuts at once, as a joke. The food was provided in case anyone had become light-headed from all the spiritual energy in the room. Betsy said that she didn’t want anybody accidentally walking into traffic and getting hit by a car. The only thing I walked into after the seance was a bar.