Mystical messages Griffin Rogers The Orion
Willamena glides around in her nightgown without a word or whisper, so subtle and silent someone would think she's a ghost.
And she is.
Willamena lives in Mary Kay Winterstein's psychic boutique, Karma, after she "walked" over from a nearby building, Winterstein said. She's from the 17th century and ejects the CD player when she feels like taking a picture with a visitor.
Because she missed her chance to go to the light after she died, Willamena is stuck on Earth, she said. At least until somebody can help her find her way.
"A word of advice: when you die, go to the light," Winterstein said. "Don't wait around, just go."
Chico is home to a number of psychics and mediums - people who can talk to the dead. This mysterious society offers to read the future, heal bodies, speak to descendants and fine-tune the sixth sense. Meanwhile, some people look on in speculation, awe or skepticism.
Winterstein was also a skeptic before she became a psychic 10 years ago, she said. She used to practice interior design. Now she talks to the dead.
She still remembers her first experience.
"I was remodeling a house for a widow and had a powerful enough experience," Winterstein said.
She could sense the dead husband around her, she said
The first step to learning more was to go through a year and a half of psychic school in Chico followed by medium school in England. At first she was nervous, afraid that society and her three sons would disapprove of her new calling.
Now, Winsterstein helps others hone in on their sixth sense and find their likes, dislikes and even broaden their understanding of physical ailments, she said.
This can be accomplished through a past life reading, where Winterstein uses her clairvoyance to determine who the person was in a previous lifetime, she said.
Winterstein told one 55-year-old customer that she used to be a pirate with a peg leg, providing an explanation for the customers reccurring sore leg.
Another was a Geisha whose feet were constantly bound, a reason for the customer's many foot surgeries.
All of this can be seen by using different levels of energy inside the human body, said Margaret VanLaanMartin, owner of Age of Aquarius and Winterstein's former teacher.
Most of the time, she "turns on" her energy to answer customers' most frequently asked questions about love, money or health, she said.
"I look at the energy and see how they can make changes or focus on an area that is working for them," she said.
Age of Aquarius provides many services including paranormal investigations. Clients who are hassled by ghost or aliens can call Margaret VanLaanMartin to visit and assess the problem area for $300 an hour plus travel expenses. It usually takes about two hours to clear the area, she said.
Mostly the ghosts just want closure on an issue, and at times the situation can be very frightening, she said. But VanLaanMartin doesn't let it get to her.
"I just don't let something come into my space that I don't want," she said. "I've always been weird. I've always been my own person."
VanLaanMartin meets skeptics all the time, but said it doesn't bother her and would never push anyone to try her services or try to "sell them."
And not everyone is convinced of these psychic "powers."
Psychic claims cannot be supported by evidence, said John Mahoney, biology professor at Chico State. Even past events in history that were thought to be magic turned out to be mere coincidence or explained through science.
"Magic tricks don't work against the laws of nature, they just fool us in clever ways," Mahoney said.
People who claim to be psychic take advantage of gullible people with insecurities, he said. And in many cases, psychics will make strings of predictions in hopes to find a special connection to any given situation. But when only one out of a hundred guesses comes true, that's not psychic energy. That's coincidence.
Psychic abilities aren't backed by science, he said. However, they do make for great stories.
Students like Alex Isley, a junior sociology major, share Mahoney's point of view.
"This is not a comic book," Isley said. "It's real life."
The business of psychics is a con full of "fake prophets" that give people's hopes up, he said.
"It's sad," he said, "because people are trying to believe in something and get let down."
Griffin Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org