The Skeptical Psychic … Feel the Burn

The Skeptical Psychic

Dr. Sally Ann Drucker, a professionally trained parapsychologist based in New York City, always figured she’d act professionally if she ever saw a “disincarnate entity” herself. But when she did, she was terrified.

Dr. Drucker was staying with her family near Cleveland several years ago when she awoke one night to find a man standing at the foot of her bed. “He was wearing a pigtail, a coat with pleats in the back and knee breeches,” she said recently over lunch at an Upper East Side Italian restaurant. “He was shorter than men are these days, and he was made out of light–you could see right through him, but you could see every detail at the same time. I hid under the covers until he was gone. But in my head rang the name ‘Worthington.’”

Dr. Drucker and her family had never heard of any Worthingtons in the area, but an old woman in town had. “She said, ‘Oh yes, the Worthingtons had owned all the land around there,’” Dr. Drucker recalled. “‘That house was built on Worthington land.’” Dr. Drucker smiled a spooky smile.

“If you stop to think about it, that part of Ohio was not settled at the time of the Revolutionary War, which is what this guy’s costume looked like–at the very most, early 19th century,” she said.

(Dr. Drucker knows a lot about period costumes; sometimes, for her own amusement, she dresses up as idealistic women from the past, like the abolitionist Frances Wright and the anarcho-syndicalist Emma Goldman.)

“How do I know it was really a disincarnate entity?” she asked. “It could have been a visual impression from the sleep state, projected outward and then clairvoyantly picking out a name from that area from the past.”

Now Dr. Drucker has a forum to address disincarnate entities and other mysterious phenomena. In October, after a 32-year hiatus, the Parapsychology Foundation on East 71st Street resumed publishing the International Journal of Parapsychology, which Dr. Drucker helps to edit.

There are articles addressing everything from sorcery in Fiji to poltergeists in Brazil, and one story about a ghost visible to one researcher but not another. All this at only $22.50 an issue.

“It’s being welcomed back with open arms,” said Lisette Coly, executive director of the Parapsychology Foundation. “You can have the journals of all the statistics which are really kind of boring and incomprehensible or, God forbid, The National Enquirer . It really fits for the educated, questioning middleman. You don’t have to dumb down the phenomena.”

The foundation also began hosting a lecture series called “Perspectives on Parapsychology” under the auspices of the New York Academy of Sciences on East 63rd Street. Dr. Drucker co-delivered a lecture there on Nov. 8 called “Are Children Very Psychic?” (Some of her work on this topic will appear in the winter issue of the I.J.P. )

Dr. Drucker is known for her work with children. Initially, Dr. Drucker had speculated that children were indeed psychic, but that the older they got, the more their psychic abilities dwindled and the more the brain started to filter out psychic intuitions. (This was based in part on the fact that there were fewer reported cases of older children displaying psychic tendencies.)

This is not a bad thing, by the way. “We have a screen up for a reason,” she said. “Can you imagine walking through New York City being psychic all day? It would be painful. Really painful! I don’t know how we would deal with all the input.”

To settle the matter completely, Dr. Drucker conducted an experiment. She placed different-color M & M’s in brown paper bags and asked 92 children to guess which color M & M was in which bag.

The results surprised Dr. Drucker. Age was not a factor in predicting the children’s accuracy. “But what did show significant levels beyond chance was the difference between higher I.Q. kids and lower I.Q. kids,” she said. Her conclusion? Smarter kids have more psychic abilities.

Despite Dr. Drucker’s methodical style, and despite the generosity of the privately funded foundation, she’s had trouble getting enough money to keep up with the high price of research. She wrote to Mars Corporation, makers of M & M candies, but the company never wrote back.

But Dr. Drucker isn’t frustrated by the lack of funding. Perhaps she inherited something from her heroine, Emma Goldman (the one Dr. Drucker likes to dress up as).

“I went to her house in the Village not long ago,” Dr. Drucker said. “And, just to myself, because I don’t know if she was there, I said, ‘Emma, is it O.K. that I’m re-creating you?’ And I felt that it was O.K. But I don’t know if she really answered. It’s not scientific; it’s just subjective.”

–Ian Blecher

Feel the Burn

It was 3:35 p.m. at Pumping Iron gym on East 91st Street one recent afternoon, and Steven Daniels, a 39-year-old day trader, was five minutes late for his exercise class. He was about to pay for it.

As Mr. Daniels walked in, the class stopped jumping rope and Dave Tebidor, the 39-year-old ex-Marine who runs the class, commanded Mr. Daniels to drop and give him 50 push-ups. Mr. Daniels began doing the push-ups while Mr. Tebidor dressed him down.

“What time is practice, Steve?”

“3:30!” Mr. Daniels replied.

“What time is practice, Steve?”

“3:30!”

“What time is practice, Steve?”

“3:30!” Mr. Daniels said as his breath gave out on the 49th push-up.

It was just another day at “Dave T’s Team Training Practice,” a workout program patterned on those of professional athletic teams, where the classes are “practices,” newcomers are “rookies” and the expression “no pain, no gain” is given new meaning.

But if you’re planning to attend “Dave T’s Team Training Practice,” plan to bring $20 for the hour-and-15-minute class. And a strong stomach.

Edgar Padilla, a 23-year-old paralegal at Brock Silverstein, said that the first time he came to Team Training, he ran out of the gym to throw up. Twice. He came back both times and completed his workout.

Despite the rocky start, Mr. Padilla still likes the class. “It’s definitely worth it,” he said. “I looked great afterwards. I was in top form. I could see differences.”

Mr. Padilla wasn’t the only one to retch after one of Mr. Tebidor’s intense workouts.

“Right now the men are outnumbering the women in the throw-up category,” Mr. Tebidor said after class. “In six years of Team Training, we’re up to 14 men and zero women. Fourteen men have left practice to do their duty in the men’s room. For some reason, women can hold pain and handle themselves under pressure more than men. Women want it more.”

Word of Mr. Tebidor’s extreme training spread through word-of-mouth, much as in Fight Club. The workouts consist of push-ups (lots of ‘em), jumping rope and sit-ups.

“Team Training isn’t for everyone,” he said. “We’ve had professional athletes in here; we’ve had Olympians in here. We’ve had doctors and lawyers and moms, professional people, and successful people who know what it takes to be successful.”

For all his bombast, Mr. Tebidor thinks that New Yorkers are basically healthy.

“I don’t think people in New York City realize how big Manhattan is,” he said. “Just trying to keep up with New York City, you’re getting your cardiovascular work.”

But at the same time, he worries about appearance-conscious New Yorkers who think that yogurt with fruit on the bottom is a two-course meal. “I wish that people would understand about eating a little more and putting more intensity into their training,” he said. “If people would put their motivation and discipline into their workouts, and not into figuring out what to eat or not to eat, we’d all be happy like me and my students in Team Training Practice.”

–Art Samuels