The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The psychic and the solar eclipse: Edgar Cayce’s grave lies in the path of totality

At 1:29 p.m. Central time Monday, the shadow of the moon will slide over Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, Ky., and for two minutes and 40 seconds cover the grave of “the Sleeping Prophet” in twilight.

At rest there for seven decades: Edgar Cayce, the 20th-century’s most famous psychic, who made predictions, medical diagnoses and cosmological pronouncements while asleep for more than 50 years.

Cayce, who was born outside Hopkinsville, parlayed a quirky, backwoods upbringing, where he claimed to absorb books by sleeping on them, into a large following that continues today, according to his Association for Research and Enlightenment, in Virginia Beach.

A farmer’s son, Cayce gave over 14,000 documented “readings” during his life, covering topics such as the kingdom of Atlantis, the original course of the Nile River, and thousands of medical diagnoses, and treatments, sometimes of patients he hadn’t seen.

Marilyn Monroe, Irving Berlin, Harry Houdini, George Gershwin and Thomas Edison reportedly sought him out, according to one biographer.

He made headlines across the country from the early 1900s through his death in 1945. And this month, his association is sponsoring a special eclipse tour of his gravesite and environs around Hopkinsville.

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“We’re going to be across the street from the stage where Edgar Cayce spoke under hypnosis for the first time,” said Kevin J. Todeschi, executive director of the association.

“We’re going to see one of the offices he had,” he said. “We’re going to go to the museum that has some of his memorabilia. We’re going to do some psychic games. Cayce said each and every one of us is psychic.”

Todeschi said there are Edgar Cayce centers in 35 countries, and Cayce’s name is still prominent. “He’s called the father of holistic medicine,” he said. “He’s the most documented psychic of all time. More then 300 books have been written about him and his work.”

There are two Cayce schools — Atlantic University, which confers graduate degrees in leadership and transpersonal psychology, and a massage school that has graduated about 2,300 students worldwide, he said.

As for the eclipse, Todeschi said that Cayce suggested that “whenever there is severe or horrible calamities on the earth, warfare … terrorism, that you would see a corresponding increase in the number of sunspots on the sun, [and] that somehow our thoughts, our deeds, our activities are also reflected in the universe.”

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On Tuesday, observers reported that a fresh crop of sunspots has just appeared on the sun, according to the website EarthSky, and could be visible with a telescope during the partial phases of the eclipse.

Cayce was making headlines as early as 1910, when the New York Times published a story about him with the headline, “Illiterate Man Becomes a Doctor When Hypnotized.”

The next year, the Hopkinsville Kentuckian carried a report of one of his readings, which took place in a Louisville hotel.

Two tables were pushed together to make a platform on which “the young psychic diagnostician” reclined after taking off his coat, collar and tie, the paper reported. “He placed his hands behind his head, closed his eyes and sighed deeply.”

He reopened his eyes, and stared at the ceiling. “His gaze grew dreamy, and a light crept into his eyes that betokened the coming trance,” the paper recounted.

Cayce, then 33, was attended by his father, Leslie, and a stenographer, who took down Edgar’s words, while the “patient,” described as a “well known man from Louisville,” sat nearby.

The elder Cayce instructed Edgar, now entranced, to proceed. Edgar then “began a technical description of the patient’s symptoms, which would do justice to any physician in the land,” the Kentuckian reported.

The patient was suffering from floating lesions of the spine, caused by insufficient nutrition. The condition could be remedied by doses of sodium phosphate and “strychnia.” (The former can be used to treat constipation. The latter is a poison.) The paper said Edgar also recommended “electrical treatment” and massage for the spine.

The patient’s response was not recorded. He had already left the room.

But 40 years later, one of Cayce’s biographers, Thomas Sugrue, wrote: “There are hundreds of people throughout the United States who will testify, at the drop of a hat, to the accuracy of his diagnoses and the efficacy of his suggestions for treatment.”

Cayce died Jan. 3, 1945, in Virginia Beach, at age 67, after a stroke. He was buried in Hopkinsville on Sunday, Jan. 7.

In his final letter to Sugrue, he wrote, “I am hoping to be better soon. There is so much to be done and so many who need help.”

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