Auction House Prepares for Sale of Famous Psychic Jeane Dixon's Belongings
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Of course you are dying to see Jeane Dixon's crystal ball first. And here it is. It made the trip to the auction house in someone's lap and then was placed in an illuminated vitrine for safekeeping. It was the celebrated seer's most powerful tool, or prop, if you don't believe in soothsaying, astrology and other hocus-pocus.
But so many do believe, and that's why we're here at Sloans & Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers in Chevy Chase, watching them sort through 500 boxes of Dixon's worldly (and otherworldly) possessions, which just arrived on five trucks.
Dixon, who died in Washington in 1997, was at one time the most celebrated psychic in America, if not the English-speaking world. She was also a fixture in Washington, a grand doyenne who corresponded with presidents and was one of Nancy Reagan's astrologers. She grew wealthy as a nationally syndicated columnist and author of seven books. Her most famous prediction was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. (Okay, she also said that we would be in World War III with China in 1958 and that we'd have a female president by now.)
On July 26, virtually everything the prognosticator owned in her Dupont Circle townhouse will be sold to the highest bidder. After a five-day exhibition starting Tuesday, all of the items -- Dixon's 19th-century alms box, files of typed transcripts of her visions, her Chanel hats, 80 pieces of furniture and her 1993 datebook filled with celebrity birthdays and astrological notations -- will be sold to the highest bidder.
"This discovery is fused with spiritual essence," says Stephanie Kenyon, president of the auction house, sounding a bit like Emma Thompson as Sybil Trelawney, the divination teacher from the "Harry Potter" movies. Kenyon has spent 32 years in the auction business, sorting through possessions of Washington's rich and famous and not-so-famous. For this sale she didn't just hope the stars would align -- she researched the most auspicious date to hold it.
"We are supposed to be levelheaded people," she says, "but we have to get into the spirit of this."
The auction is likely to bring out antique collectors and bidders who want a piece of anything Dixon may have touched, whether a cat show ribbon, a Victorian chair or a creepy, enormous, 18th-century Italian gilded mirror with two carved satyrs with cloven feet.
Kenyon points out a navy parasol with a silver handle engraved with Dixon's name.
"Let's not polish it," she instructs her staff. "We may wipe away some of her karma."
Dixon kept everything. There are several letters from Ronald Reagan to Dixon and her husband, James, a Washington real estate executive who died in 1984, plus books, letters and telegrams from Billy Graham, Brigitte Bardot, Betty Ford, John Glenn, Joan Crawford, Richard Nixon and Harry Truman. There is a framed copy of a 1991 Senate roll-call vote on the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with a cryptic notation, "Dear Mrs. Dixon, Wow. You hit it right on the head. Many heartfelt thanks. Love, J.P."
"It seems like the whole world was consulting her," Kenyon says.
Dixon died of a heart attack at either 79 or 93, depending on whom you believe. She had no children. Many of her possessions ended up with Washington investor and banker Leo M. Bernstein. In 2002, he put them on display at the Jeane Dixon Museum and Library in Strasburg, Va., which he founded. Bernstein, who had a yen for psychic phenomena himself and happened to be Dixon's banker, died last year. Members of Bernstein's family involved in his arts and history foundation, in consultation with Dixon's own children's foundation, decided to sell her possessions, according to Kenyon.