There weren’t many crystal balls, gypsies, or the stereotypical Professor Trelawney-type robed soothsayers. However, plenty of gems, incense, dowsing rods, and dream catchers lent an aura of mysticism to Syracuse’s 23rd annual Psychic Fair held at the Liverpool Holiday Inn this past weekend.
With a total of 30 stalls, the event offered the “standard” psychic fare (tarot cards, astrologers, and palmistry) as well as more unique options, including aura and chakra readings, psychic drawings, and reiki. One booth, run by an organization called Paracuse, provided information about its local paranormal investigations. Despite an $8 entrance fee, the fair tempted sceptics and spiritualists alike to roam among the assortment of booths selling both merchandise and psychic services (on average, a 15 minute session cost $50). Rubbish or revere it, there is a certain excitement in getting your fortune told.
“I have no strong beliefs but I am open to the possibilities,” said Tommy Baniewicz, who attended the fair with his wife, a firm believer in the power of psychic readings. ”Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.”
The annual event was the brainchild of Syracuse mailman Ronald W. Dunn, who grew up in a psychic household with parents who put faith in the alternative realm. His own talents came started getting attention when he would make recommendations to his coworkers about personal decisions they were silently contemplating but had not yet disclosed. Soon, he started getting invitations to frat parties at SU where he would do readings for eager, drunk college kids. As his popularity grew as an astute and accurate soothsayer (in and outside beer-saturated basements), he and partner Georgina Power, from Rochester, began holding the fair in 1990.
Today, Dunn’s daughter, Anna Rossman, has taken over the event. Like her grandparents and father before her, she too possesses the ability to see and sense things that others cannot. Rossman attributes the consistency of public interest in the nearly quarter-century old event to the fact that many of the people involved are three generations into the psychic realm as well.
Karen Stanton, for instance, has what she describes as “three and a half” generations at the fair. She was attending along with her daughter and two granddaughters, one of whom was pregnant.
“It’s my first time at the fair in 11 years,” said Stanton, who nevertheless consults a psychic seer regularly. She seeks out seers to get in touch with family and friends who have passed away, and also boasts 900 books by Edgar Cayse, a man who she calls the “greatest psychic that ever lived.”
“I think there are other dimensions,” she said, “And the dead who become spirits communicate with us through these seers.” Stanton believes that her own mother speaks to her through her daughter, Virginia.
Virginia, a mental health counsellor, and her daughter, Rosemary, a student at SUNY Oneonta, were brought up under Stanton’s strong psychic spirituality. Both choose to seek seers themselves for guidance.
“I have trouble making decisions,” said Rosemary. “It helps me know if I am on the right track, and if you know that something good is about to happen, it’s nice way to have something to look forward to.”
For the three generations of women, fortune telling also serves as a way to get together as a family. “We’ll have house parties where we will invite a seer or go for readings together once or twice a year,” Virginia said.
One of the psychics offering his services at the fair was Native American seer Ted Silverhand, who has been reading fortunes for 51 years.
“My mother was a seer, so was my grandmother; I am simply following family tradition,” said Silverhand who calls himself the poor man’s shrink. (A reading with him costs $70 for 20 minutes).
Silverhand remembers talking to spirits as a child. His parents recognized his talents and nurtured them.
“I’m blessed,” he said. “I have a gift. But I am not a teacher and I don’t have any powers. It all comes from the creator.”