Ms. Millie, whose sign outside her Augusta Road home promises help “with all of your problems,” has been a spiritual adviser in West Columbia for 60 years. Researchers are divided on whether psychic abilities like hers are legitimate.
By Alex Buscemi
Dec. 5, 2013
Show Ms. Millie your palm for a few minutes – and a few bucks – and she says she’ll know all about where your love life, career and well-being are headed.
The psychic, who won’t provide her full name or her age, has given spiritual advice out of her home in West Columbia for 60 years. She says her readings have moved some customers to tears and that she has helped investigators find missing people.
Others, she says, have laughed in her face.
Researchers at The Rhine Research Center in Durham, N.C., and at the University of West Georgia say decades of evidence show psychic ability is a real phenomenon. A psychology lecturer at the University of North Carolina, however, says the evidence is bunk.
A Virgin Mary prays in the center of the large white sign outside her Augusta Road home. Bright red letters in Spanish promise “Te alludamos con todos problemas” – “Help you with all of your problems.” Inside the front door, which is guarded by two lion statues, Ms. Millie uses a walker to get around her ornate Native American sculptures and collection of glistening crystal balls.
“You have a dark side,” she tells me softly, gently cradling my hands in hers. “We all do, but you can’t let yours take hold of your life.”
Ms. Millie says that while she can’t pinpoint the exact age she discovered her psychic abilities, the realization occurred as a young Cherokee girl in Tulsa, Okla., after a friend drowned.
“I felt she wouldn’t live long,” Ms. Millie says. “I was seeing a lot of water at the time.”
She calls it her “awakening to know.” She had thought her visions were something everyone experienced, but now she felt guilt for not telling anyone.
“I should have told someone,” she says.
Ms. Millie says her grandmother, who also possessed psychic abilities, noticed the guilt and told her that in the family one female in every other generation inherited the gift. Her grandmother also became a source of guidance, Ms. Millie says. “She supervised me right from wrong.”
She says she decided to become a professional psychic when she moved to Columbia to share her gift with those needing guidance.
She says that early on she helped find missing people by visualizing their environments. Some were runaways, others kidnapping victims. Some were found alive, others not in time.
Investigators “would ask me how the child is, and, through my visions, they did drawings and were able to determine where she was,” Ms. Millie says.
She won’t say whom she had helped to locate. “I don’t want people thinking I save lives; it’s just a gift,” she says.
But the strain became too much, Ms. Millie says, so she decided to focus on commercial readings.
“As you get older you get softer,” she says. “It’s hard. There’s too many killings and kidnappings, and it takes its toll.”
Today, she charges $25 for a palm reading. She says some of her customers burst into tears – “I tell good and bad, I don’t sugarcoat” – while others doubt her because she says she tells them what they don’t want to hear.
“Someone will come in with a love problem, and I’ll say her boyfriend is going to leave her, and she’ll say ‘You’re trash; he loves me,’” she said.
|Listen to Ms. Millie discuss growing up as a Cherokee in Oklahoma and having to go to school in the city.|
Researchers at the Rhine center, which is devoted to exploring psychic abilities, experiences and techniques, argue that while they may not understand how it all works, some people have proved to have extrasensory abilities.
“The question isn’t ‘Does it happen?’ but ‘How does it work?’” says John Kruth, who runs the center’s bio-energy lab.
Kruth has put energetic healers, heavy meditators, martial artists and others who say they have extrasensory abilities in a lightproof room. His studies suggest some of them increased the levels of ultraviolet light in the room through meditation.
Ultraviolet light is seen as a way information can be transferred between organisms, he says.
It’s all “fake science,” says Elizabeth Jordan, a senior lecturer of psychology at the University of North Carolina.
“There’s no actual scientific evidence. There’s usually a natural explanation of these things, but that doesn’t sell movies and TV shows,” she says.
The fantastical portrayal of mediums and ghost hunters on television creates an unfair stigma that holds the field of parapsychology back, says Loyd Auerbach, an advisory board member at the Rhine center who also runs his own site, The Paranormal Network, and performs as “Professor Parnormal.”
“Anything that challenges the empirical methods of science, anything that challenges the status quo of physics is ridiculed,” Auerbach said. “People were biased towards Einstein’s theories at first because mainstream science didn’t want to consider them.”
University of West Georgia is among the few American universities offering a class in parapsychology. Don Rice, psychology department chairman, thinks extrasensory abilities might be remnants from human evolution.
“I’m not convinced we’re talking about something other-worldly,” Rice says. “The sense of knowing what someone else is knowing or thinking, this ability might have been something useful at one point for humans during our development that isn’t so useful now.”
Ms. Millie says there is no point in researching whether her abilities are real.
“You’ll never understand it. It’s something that you feel,” she said. “It’s faith.”