Some seek answers from psychics during economic uncertainty

Scott Hilyard

Wall Street is tanking. Unemployment is soaring. Banks are foreclosing. Layoffs seem to happen somewhere close by every day.

In the midst of these troubling, uncertain times, Peoria resident John Porter, who prefers the word "intuitive" over "psychic" as the descriptive title of his calling, is offering his own mystical brand of hope.

"Simply, when people undergo a massive, life-altering experience, like losing a job for instance, it sends shock waves deep within the spirit of that person and sends them in a spiraling depression. They tend to spend a lot of time questioning the validity of their existence," Porter said. "But the key component that people are looking for the most when they come for a reading is hope. They are looking for validation, confirmation, direction and affirmation from loved ones who have (died). Without question, people want something to hold on to, and that is hope."

It probably comes as no surprise then that when times get tough, people seek answers to complicated questions. An article in Wired magazine late last year reported that Internet psychics saw a spike in traffic the day after the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 770 points.

"If the future is uncertain, people turn to psychics," said Gita Johar, a Columbia Business School professor who has studied the psychic phenomena, in the Wired article.

What will happen if I lose my job? My house? My health? Will my family fall apart if we hit a downward spiral? How can I calm my anxiety? What does the future hold?

Those questions are coming up a lot recently on weekends behind the curtains in the back room of The Moon Dancer, an eclectic shop in Peoria Heights that sells clothes, accessories, incense, candles and lots more to a loyal clientele of - how to describe them - free thinkers? In the past year, and at her customers' requests, owner Julie Vonachen has provided space to an expanding network of energy healers, psychics, numerologists, dream interpreters, tarot and angel card readers and intuitives, all of whom aim to bring comfort to a seemingly endless supply of variably wounded and curious seekers.

"(One psychic) told me it's more common now for the first question from a client to be not about a relationship, but about the economy," Vonachen said.

While it's not immediately apparent on the surface, there is clearly an embedded community within the community that relies on psychic services. A popular woman in Peoria County reportedly accepts phone call appointments on the first day of the month and typically sells out in an hour. The readings at The Moon Dancer also routinely sell out.

There are also at least two public psychics who advertise their services in neon in the windows of their Peoria shops. Neither woman agreed to be interviewed for this story. One said she is very busy these days, but declined to talk because she felt negative energy about the request. The other woman said the opposite - she had to close a shop because business was lacking.

"We're affected by the economy," she said. "We're human and we're suffering, too."

Leanne McWhorter, a dream interpreter and energy healer from Bartonville, said a person's response to difficult economic times can travel in two directions.

"Think of it in terms of the Law of Polarity. People can do one of two things: They can drown their sorrows in alcohol and move downward on the pole, or they can look for spiritual answers, whether in traditional religion or something less traditional, and move higher on the pole."

Vonachen said the increase in psychic activity is more than just a response to a scary economy.

"It's much bigger than that. A change in consciousness is happening," she said. "Gifted people are drawn here, and seekers are showing up."

Scott Hilyard can be reached at (309) 686-3244 or atshilyard@pjstar.com.