It was billed as an "ESP Psychic Festival," and organizer Bruce Mason said you should have felt a psychic aura when you walked in the door.
What the ordinary eye beheld in the banquet room at the Sheraton Inn in New Carrollton yesterday were about two dozen psychics, astrologers, card readers and other clairvoyants, along with about a hundred people who had stopped by hoping to learn what the future held for them.
In one corner, Gerald Boisvert, a 59-year-old Bowie man, had his aura photographed. He put his hand in a closed black bag, inside of which a Polaroid photograph was taken, and Mason analyzed the results.
Boisvert said he was "flabbergasted" at how well Mason pegged his personality and predicted his future from the dark purple photograph with glowing circles in the middle.
Without asking questions, Mason told Boisvert that Boisvert liked doing several things at the same time, had "administrative and executive abilities," and would move next year to Florida where life would be hectic at first.
Boisvert said he does in fact have the ability to do several things at the same time, is a retired school administrator, is having a house built in Cape Coral, Fla., and expects a hectic life when he and his wife move there and open a video shop.
Marie Boisvert, his wife, said Mason told her she had "healing powers." She said she had not told him she was a registered nurse.
"I came here skeptical, wondering how much of a scam this would be," her husband said. "They haven't converted me," he said, "but I was rather impressed."
Mason, a tall gray-haired man, said he has no special psychic abilities. "Everybody is psychic," he said. He said he sharpened his skills by being around psychics. "If I hang around with a lot of people who shoot bows and arrows, I'm going to get pretty good with a bow and arrow," he noted.
Mason said the psychic festival was meant to raise money (there was a $1.50 entrance fee) for a center to study psychic phenomena. The center is sponsored by a large, California-based "mail-order church" he said. "You can even get your dog ordained, and a couple of people have."
He said people are becoming increasingly interested in psychic matters. "The disenchantment with the normal -- anything establishment -- also has helped," he said. "When people find out that psychiatrists have a high suicide rate, people start looking for alternate counseling."
Mason was taking aura photographs for free, but most of the psychics were charging $10 for each consultation. Alice Nick, a postal clerk from New Carrollton, came looking for help but found the cost and the crowds too intimidating. She sat and watched from the sidelines.
"I'm trying to find something out about me," Nick said. She said she had job problems, lost her apartment and had gone into bankruptcy. "I've been having bad luck," she said. "One thing after another has been happening to me . . . . I need answers."
This reporter forked out $12 and consulted Luna Berlotte, a 34-year-old Haitian who reads tarot cards. Berlotte spread the colorful home-made cards on a table. "You don't do things the way you really want to, but the way other people want," she said. "Follow your own light."
After inspecting a few more cards, Berlotte predicted "problems with a woman." These problems can be worked out, she said, "if you make the decision to work it out. If not, she will have other people in her life. I see jealousy coming up."
Fortunately, Berlotte said she doesn't belive in fatalism. "You can always change things," she said.