We all, as children, saw imaginary friends and heard monsters in the closet. But for Suzan Saxman, those friends and monsters didn't go away-and they weren't imaginary. They were the dead who came to her from the time she was a little girl with urgent messages for the living. Raised in a house filled with secrets, she saw and spoke the truth as soon as she could talk, alarming the nuns in her convent school with her revelations and terrifying her own mother with her strange visions. Each night she woke to see a man with no eyes watching her, and each day she kept watch by the window while her father was at work and Steve, her real father, a swarthy drifter, rendezvoused with her mother. It was the 1960s in suburban Staten Island and she tried to hide it all, and be a daughter her mother could love.
Always skeptical of her tremendous gift, she struggled to come to terms with her calling even as she revealed the destinies of everyone, from housewives to hit men, stockbrokers to rock-and-rollers. She could witness everyone's future-everyone's but her own. Why was she visited by angels and demons? Could she ever escape this strange fate? Where was her own soul mate?
Now Suzan tells the story of her journey and tries to make sense of her family's buried secrets. Through powerful readings of others' destinies interwoven with compelling narrative, a reluctant psychic emerges from the shadows.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Suzan Saxman lives in Woodstock, NY, and runs a small shop called The White Gryphon Boutique and Studio. She is a lifelong vegetarian and passionate animal rights advocate. THE RELUCTANT PSYCHIC is her first book.
Perdita Finn is a writer whose books include the Time Flyers series. She and her husband are the founders of a non-denominational rosary fellowship in Woodstock, NY.
Read an Excerpt
The Reluctant Psychic
By Suzan Saxman, Perdita Finn
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Suzan Saxman
All rights reserved.
This Is What a Psychic's Invisible Friends Look Like
As soon as I began speaking, I knew I couldn't let anyone hear my real voice. How old was I? A little older than one? Maybe two? But I knew that I was not a child.
I felt like I was awakening from a dream and didn't know where I was. I didn't know what life I was in. I didn't even know who I was. Suzan? Was that my name? Really? I was an old woman, older than anyone in my family. What was I doing on Staten Island when I should be living in a cottage somewhere in England or walking the streets of London? I was an old British woman. That's what I sounded like to myself—the voice I heard in my own head. I certainly wasn't a child.
Instinctively, I knew that if anyone discovered who and what I really was, I would be in danger. Even as a toddler I was on my guard. I knew I could not trust anyone, not even my parents, especially my parents. Especially my mother.
What would happen if she found me out? Would she put me up for adoption? Would she leave me in a basket on someone's doorstep? Would she report me to the authorities? Would she bring in the priests and the exorcists? Would she burn me at the stake?
All of these were barely understood possibilities, left over, I suppose, from lives I had lived where all of these things had happened. I was an old, melancholy baby right from the beginning. Who would possibly want me?
In my earliest memory, my mother walked into the living room and said, "Who left the radio on?"
I was clutching my favorite doll, a Casper the Friendly Ghost toy, and I had been talking to it. In my real voice. My old-lady English voice. I started babbling when my mother came into the room, because I knew I had to pretend to talk like a baby.
The radio wasn't on. I pulled the string on my toy and made Casper talk. That seemed to get me off the hook. This time.
But I could not always hide the things I knew and saw. They slipped out and they got me in trouble.
I was very young when I began telling my mother the things I knew about her. I saw her, in my mind, as a little girl pulling my aunt Mary, disabled from polio, in a child's red wagon. They were down by the train tracks with a group of other children, and my mother was wearing a red dress. They were putting pennies on the tracks and waiting for a train to come and crush them flat.
I told my mother what I had seen.
"I never told you that," she said. "How did you know I was wearing a red dress?"
"I saw it," I said innocently. "In my head."
"What do you mean, in your head?"
"You were mean to Aunt Mary. I saw that, too."
"I was not. How can you say that? I had to help her go everywhere because she couldn't walk because of the polio. I've told you that. I did everything for my sister."
I was beginning to feel anxious and frightened. My mother was angry at me and I didn't understand why. I started to cry, but I couldn't hold back from describing what I was seeing. It was too powerful. And I knew that it was true. "But you threw that big shell at her," I said. "You made that scar on her forehead."
My mother stared at me in astonishment. "How do you know that?"
"I saw it," I said, which was the truth.
I had been in the room with my mother, and while my eyes had focused on a single object, on a chair, the eye inside my head had witnessed a scene unscrolling across my brain. The world around me had blurred, while the movie inside my head appeared before my inner eye with absolute clarity.
The children by the tracks, the blue of the sky, my mother's red dress, the conch shell in her hand—I had seen them as if they were right before my eyes. The little girl scarcely resembled my forty-three-year-old mother, but I could feel that she was the same person. Every being has a unique vibration, whatever its current physical appearance, and I can sense it in that place that opens up just below my heart.
My mother's bossiness, her restlessness, and her rage—I'd recognized her essence at once. But I couldn't articulate any of that as a child. "I saw it in my head," was all that I could say.
I knew at once that I had said something wrong, that I wasn't supposed to see these things. What I'd said terrified my mother in some way that I couldn't understand. It made her angry at me. But I couldn't seem to stop myself.
My mother wanted our family to look as normal as possible. This was the 1960s, and we lived in a colonial suburban house on Staten Island. Daddy went to work every day to the hospital in New Jersey where he was the director of environmental services. My mother plucked her eyebrows and put on makeup and a camel-hair coat to walk the dog. We didn't have plastic covering on the furniture, but we might as well have. No one lived in the living room. No one ever came over.
My mother slept in my parents' bedroom by herself. Daddy slept in the TV room on a pull-out bed. My sister, ten years older than me, slept in a blue room, and I was supposed to sleep in a room decorated all in pink. But I couldn't.
Every night I would sleep for a few minutes—at the most an hour—and then startle awake. Looming over me was the giant dark shadow of a man. He had long white hair, a wide-brimmed black hat, and beneath it eye sockets that sometimes were empty and sometimes blazed with fire. Other than his eyes, he looked like the Quaker Oats man from the cereal box, which really isn't that frightening when he's on a cereal box, but when he's at the end of your bed in the middle of the night and he has holes where his eyes should be, it's scary as hell.
My blood turned to ice in my veins when he appeared. That's how frightening he was.
All my life, very little has frightened me. Most horror movies amuse me. I find Stephen King's novels fascinating, but they don't give me goose bumps. But even the thought of the man in the black hat made me shudder for years. And as a child to actually see him? It was beyond terrifying.
I don't remember the first time I saw him, because I was always seeing him. I never had one night's sleep when he wasn't in the room. I'd clutch Casper the Ghost close and shut my eyes, immobilized with terror, but I knew I was being watched. I'd open my eyes, and there the man would be. He wanted something from me. I didn't know what. He was no ephemeral, translucent being—he was as real as my mother and father. Still, I knew he was a spirit, that he came from somewhere else, that he was an intruder in our house.
How do I know someone is a spirit when they look as solid as a real person to me? It's like those pictures where you have to spot the thing that does not belong. A spirit always has a tell, a way I know they don't quite fit into the picture of reality. Something is off-kilter. It could be very subtle, but the man in the black hat was not subtle at all. He had no eyes. He came from the world of death; his entire essence was of death.
"The man in the hat! The man in the hat!" I would finally scream, finding my voice. My mother, annoyed, would run into my room, sure I was being murdered. But no one was ever there. He was always gone by the time my parents arrived. My father would look for an intruder and check the doors. "It's nothing," they'd say. "Go back to bed."
But I couldn't. Because he'd come back as soon as they were gone.
Once I was alone again and the house was quiet, he would reappear like a vision from hell. Finally, when I couldn't endure my terror any longer, I would crawl out of bed and run to my mother's room.
She endured my arrival. She didn't hold me or touch me or soothe me with caresses. She lay on one side of the bed, and I lay on the other. My mother had long blond hair that she wore down at night, which made her look wraithlike and terrifying. She, too, scared me, but where else could I go? I couldn't be alone, or the man with the black hat would appear. I chose my mother's coldness over the cold terror he awoke in me.
Children are alert to the spiritual world in a way that grown-ups have learned not to be. A woman whose daughter had an invisible friend came to see me for a reading. The child demanded the invisible boy be given a plate of food at dinner and room beside her in the car. Naturally, the boy wasn't visible to the mother and the whole thing had become exasperating. But he wasn't invisible to me. He was the spirit of a boy from the girl's neighborhood who'd died many years before and was lonely for a friend.
There are spirits all around us, and children can see them. Children's parents tell them the sprits aren't real, that they don't matter, and so slowly the kids learn to ignore them and finally they forget how to see them altogether.
Are there monsters under the bed? Sometimes there really are.
Surprisingly, I didn't have an invisible friend who was another child, just my demonic Quaker Oats man. It figures.
My mother never tried to explain away his appearance as other mothers might have, nor did she acknowledge him and try to explore who he might be. Still, she would whisper to my aunts when she thought I wasn't listening, "Suzan saw the man with the hat again."
I knew my older sister wasn't having these experiences. I knew my parents weren't. I knew instinctively that if I tried to talk about what I saw, they would roll their eyes and shake their heads as if it were all silliness. But I could feel their fear each night when I called to them. My first lesson as a child was not to speak about what I was experiencing because it made my mother frightened, too.
One night I was feverish and I threw up in my mother's bed. "You puked in the bed!" she screamed at me in disgust. "I was trying to sleep. What's the matter with you anyway? You puked!"
I was ashamed and humiliated. I did everything wrong. But there was nowhere else I could go.
Perhaps it would have helped if my dog had been allowed to sleep in my room. But Muffet was permanently exiled to the basement. I used to go down there and sit beside her on the cement floor. I could feel her thoughts. She was furious and confused. She couldn't understand why she'd been rescued from the pound just to end up living in the cellar. I knew how she felt.
I also was a different species. If my mother could have, she would have locked me away as well. I used to wrap my arm around my face and suck on my skin. I had mouth-shaped sores in the crook of each arm. I never had a bottle, a pacifier, or even my thumb. My mother didn't believe in thumb sucking. I never remember anyone holding me. I held myself like a bat. I was an upset animal worrying a hot spot, trying desperately to comfort myself.
My heart raced all the time. I had so many secrets inside of me that wanted to come out. Sometimes I would just burst into tears with the frustration of it all.
"Oh, Suzan, just stop it," my mother would say. "Stop it right now."
My mother imagined herself pious, but she never prayed with me or even took me to church or offered me any of the solaces of religion. She'd been raised Catholic and in her room was a statue of the Virgin Mary. She was always going on and on about the Blessed Mother, how perfect she was, how chaste.
I resented the Virgin, all covered up in her blue and white robes like she was hiding something. There was something false about her. Or maybe I had her confused with my own mother.
"Isn't there another Mary?" I asked.
"What are you talking about?"
"I like the other Mary."
"That's her," I said. "That one."
I recognized her name. I saw her in my mind, a woman with long dark hair, naked and dancing in the woods. She was of the forest; she was part of nature; she was nature, the essence of nature. She was freedom and laughter and music. I didn't see any of that when I looked at my mother's statue. That Mary was bound beneath her chaste blue and white robes, controlled by men. She was what men wanted women to be. My heart yearned for the other Mary, the untamed one. But all of these sensations were trapped inside of me and I had no idea how I was supposed to express them. My thoughts were too big for my little head, and they were dark and deep and wild.
"Mary Magdalene wasn't a very nice lady. How do you know about her?" My mother's eyes narrowed.
"The TV," I lied. I had no idea how I knew that there was another Mary, but I did.
"You don't need to know anything at all about Mary Magdalene," said my mother. I could tell she didn't like her.
I also knew my mother didn't like children. She told me so. Sometimes she remembered to add as an afterthought that she did like my sister and me, and sometimes she didn't. She decorated our house with Hummel figurines of rosy-cheeked Alpine girls and boys. They were frighteningly cheerful in their frozen state of happiness. I thought they were hideous. Was this who I was supposed to be? A von Trapp family singer?
She made me wear velvet dresses and gold shoes—outfits so fanciful that the other kindergartners called me Princess Suzan when I went to school—but I never remember her once telling me that she loved me.
In kindergarten, the teachers realized that I was practically blind. I had always been used to the world being blurry and unfocused, but now I couldn't see the blackboard. My mother took me to the optometrist, and he told us I needed thick corrective lenses.
My mother let me pick out pastel pink plastic frames that made me feel pretty. When we got home, however, she told me how ugly I looked in them. "They don't do anything for you. I hope you're not going to let people see you in them."
I immediately lost them, and everything became fuzzy again. I could read print, but the wider world didn't exist for me. It's amazing I never got hit by a car. I was that blind.
I could see the dead around me, though, with perfect clarity. Everything else was fuzzy, but the spirits had edges, detail, brilliance. I was seeing them with my third eye, and that eye, apparently, did not need glasses. Even today I like to do blind readings. My eyes are open, but I take out my contacts and let the real world blur so I can bring the spiritual realm into focus.
In bed with my mother at night, I'd often wake up to find three spirits watching over me. They were the hooded figures of men dressed in robes. I knew they were holy and wise; they radiated peace and made me feel perfectly serene. The man in the middle was tall, with a black beard. He would nod at me; I would nod back. He smiled when I acknowledged him, but we never spoke to each other. I would wake up and see them, usually around three o'clock: the witching hour, the hour of God.
All throughout the day I would look forward to that moment when I would see my three men, and I would panic if for some reason I didn't see them. But they came almost every night until I was ten years old, which is around the age when even ordinary kids stop seeing their invisible friends. My mother was always asleep when they arrived. I knew they wouldn't come if she was awake. Even today I don't know for certain exactly who they were. But I sensed I had known them for lifetimes, and somehow I knew that they were my guardians. Somehow I also knew that they had given me the gift of prophecy.
Later I would realize that these men were probably the keepers of the Akashic Records. According to Hinduism everything that is destined to happen to us is contained within the Akashic Records, and my sweet little monks were giving me access to them. What a blessing that turned out to be!
Given what my life has been like as a psychic, I probably should have been more frightened of the Three Amigos than the man in the black hat. Thanks, guys! What a gift. They gave me an instrument to play and the skill to play it, but I can't tell you how many times I've stuck it in the closet and tried to ignore it. But that's the way it is for a lot of people, not just me. You've got a destiny, and no matter how hard you try, you can't run from it. You've got to do what you've got to do.
I'm sure that's why I got so sick when I was six years old. I came down with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis—an old person's disease invading a young person's body. My fever soared and the family brought me to the hospital. The doctors were getting ready to immerse me in an ice bath when the fever miraculously broke. Still, they kept me in the hospital for days.
My family behaved appropriately, arriving with a stuffed rabbit for me to cuddle. But I knew that something was missing from my mother when she looked at me—some kind of honest affection. She didn't touch me, but just stared at me from the end of the bed. Hers was a masquerade of concern.
I knew I might die when I was in the hospital, but I wasn't afraid. I thought about death all the time: not in any particularly morbid way, but with a simple, clear awareness that it might happen at any moment. I recognized the likelihood of death the way old people often do. It was right around the corner. It was no big deal.
I knew I might ascend to the next level. I can remember thinking about it just that way, ascend to the next level, and it certainly wasn't something I'd heard talked about in Catholic kindergarten. It wasn't the way most little girls thought; I knew that. The problem was, I didn't feel connected to anything around me. I wasn't of this time, of this country, of this family. Maybe I could die and come back and find my true place. I was the thing in the picture that didn't belong. What's wrong with this picture? Me.
Excerpted from The Reluctant Psychic by Suzan Saxman, Perdita Finn. Copyright © 2015 Suzan Saxman. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Photographs of Suzan and Erik Jasper,
Chapter 1: This Is What a Psychic's Invisible Friends Look Like,
Chapter 2: Tales from the Crypt,
Chapter 3: Quick! Call an Exorcist!,
Chapter 4: All They Can Do Is Bite Ya!,
Chapter 5: The Artful Dodger Steals My Heart,
Chapter 6: There Goes the Neighborhood,
Chapter 7: Night School for X-Men (and Misfit Girls),
Chapter 8: Men in Tights,
Chapter 9: Getting to Know the Dead,
Chapter 10: The Sword in the Horse,
Chapter 11: Hobbits, Beggars, and Angels ... or Why I Love Going to England,
Chapter 12: Walking an Anaconda Is Easier than Thanksgiving with My Mother,
Chapter 13: It Was Her Time, Whatever That Means,
Chapter 14: Burn Me, Drown Me, Kill Me ... I Just Keep Coming Back,
Chapter 15: Has-Beens on Parade,
Chapter 16: The Prom King Takes Me to the Ball,
Chapter 17: Just by Accident (Ha!),
Chapter 18: Cruise Ship Suzie,
Chapter 19: The Land of the Freak and the Home of the Vague,
Chapter 20: How Not to Die,
Chapter 21: By the Time I Got to Woodstock,
Chapter 22: I'm Not Going Anywhere!,
Chapter 23: My Reading Room,
Chapter 24: After the Apocalypse,
About the Authors,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I liked the story but it has views that clash with mine, not to say the the whole story isn't true and fascinating
Surprisingly funny and irreverent about spiritual matters, this is as much about a woman struggling to overcome an oppressive family and difficult men to realize her own power and joy. Loved it, and stayed up all night reading it.
Great Memoir, Read the book in less then a week, was well written and a great read!
Poorly written. There are a lot of contradictions. It didn't really explain anything about her gift. Multiple typos. I didn't enjoy it at all. Too dark and dense, too confusing.
It was an awesome book! A great read and for someone who believes and psychic abilities and that there is really no true death it is a reassuring work of art!
This was such an honest biography, I almost felt like a voyeur for reading it. Suzan tells all in this book of her frightful childhood and her coming into her own, for the moment. As much as think The Reluctant Psychic is about her abilities and realizing this made her special, this is also a book about coming to terms with her family’s secrets. I have to admit that this book almost includes too much. The details of the taunting by her mother and childhood bullies were terrible to read. The truth about her father, and her mother’s husband, were obviously not made up. The lack of love from her mother made me wonder how she came into the world at all, much less with such hope for the future. Sad to see what people put children through. Despite all of that Suzan still retains all of this hope for herself and the coincidences in her life. She admits that she can’t see anything about her own fate, but then she actually does a few times. Some of the people that feature in this story seem right out of a comic book or something. I have no doubt that people treat clairvoyants differently when they know about them. I just didn’t realize how differently. The people in this book wear costumes and believe in fairies, not that it is all bad. The people in this story seem a little dreamy and very far from the reality I live in. I could see why she calls herself the reluctant psychic, as much as she seemed to just want to be like everyone else she isn’t. People treat her very differently and expect much more from her. It was interesting to learn about how she stumbled through her beginnings. It didn’t really help her to be clairvoyant, except to make her really different from everyone else. I liked this story, but I was really torn on how to rate it. Due to the genuine person behind this tale, and her unique story, I had to admire her honesty. Not everyone can get up and tell the truth about their skeletons. This is a very resilient woman. I don’t read many biography books, but I believed in Suzan, she seemed real to me. This whole book is delivered in first person. The writer was obviously trying not to skip anything in the delivery. It probably had too many details without enough of the psychic stories we all want to read about. I felt like it needed it to have more of a focused delivery to gain the popularity that this woman’s story probably deserves.