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April 8, 2013

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro: When and How I First Found Out I am Psychic

Like Miriam Kaminsky, my heroine in Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012), I am a phone psychic. Everyone is always asking, “When and how did you find out you are psychic?”

My sharpest memory is when I was four years old and I just knew that the phone was about to ring and that it would be my mother’s English cousin, Bertie, calling to say that he was coming. I heard the whole conversation between him and my mother in my head, never mind that the last time Bertie came, I had only been one-year-old and couldn’t possibly have remembered him.  

“Ello, Duckie, the Queen Mary has just docked in New York and I need you to come round to collect me.” 

As I was telling this to my parents at the kitchen table, even imitating Bertie’s cockney accent, the old-time black dial phone rang. When my mother picked it up and listened, her eyes began to flick side to side like the eyes of our Felix the Cat wall clock. After she got off the phone, she looked at me with her plucked brows raised.”You must have your grandmother’s gift,” she said.  

My father’s mother, my Russian grandma, Bubbie, with her long white hair coiled high on her head like a crown, her creased neck powdered with lavender-scented talc, could look into a person’s eyes and tell if he was ill or into a woman’s eyes and tell if she was pregnant, even before she suspected it herself. She knew if someone would be moving soon or losing a job or getting a new one. Not only did she make predictions for our family and the whole neighborhood, but potions, too. She concocted salves, cough syrups, eye drops, cures for dyspepsia, dysmenorrhea, and even despair.

“If she has Mama’s gift,” my father said, “why didn’t she tell us before that your cousin was coming? Then at least I could have sent him a telegram that said, ‘Stay the heck home!”

My mother was too busy looking for her car keys to fight with Dad. After she left, as my father muttered under his breath about Moms’ “freeloading relatives,” I got a vision. My father was already so aggravated that young as I was, I knew I shouldn’t say another word. But it was as if there was pepper on my tongue and it would burn up if I didn’t open my mouth. What flew out was, “A yellow-haired lady is coming with Bertie.”
“If you’re right,” my father said, “the two of them don’t need to unpack because I’m sending them right back where they came from.” 

 What probably was at least three hours later, my mother came in and shut the door behind her. Her cheeks looked red even though she hadn’t put on rouge. “Bertie got married,” she announced. 

“And, of course, he had the nerve not only to bring himself here without warning, without but his wife too?” my father yelled.

There was wailing and my mother flung open the door. Bertie and his blonde wife stood there, wicker suitcases at their feet, a wailing baby that I hadn’t foreseen in her arms. Now how could my father turn them away? They stayed the whole summer. More than once they took so much time in the bathroom that I had to do my business in a pail on our second story porch.

My insights weren’t treated warmly within the family and certainly not outside it. Mrs. O’Hagen told my mother to wash my mouth out with soap when I told her that her that in my mind I saw that her husband had kissed Mrs. Shutz. When I got to kindergarten and told Miss Gomberg that she was never going to get married, she burst into tears and called me a brat.

But the day that my bubbie leaned down, cradled my face in her hands, and said to me, “You have my gift,” everything felt worth it. 

About the Author:
Articles have been written about Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s psychic gift in such places as Redbook, The Jerusalem Post, the Dutch Magazine, TV GID, and the Long Island section of the New York Times. She’s chronicled her own psychic experiences in Newsweek (My Turn), and The New York Times (Lives) which can be read on her website at

Her first novel, Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster) was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. Besides her psychic practice, Shapiro teaches writing at UCLA Extension.
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  1. What a wonderful piece! I have loved Ms. Shapiro's novels as well so i was really pleased to see this.

  2. Very cool! Russian bubbies are the best, as I've discovered with marrying into a Russian family. I worked as a telephone psychic for awhile, doing Tarot readings, but the company I was with was more interested in making sure we kept people on the phone longer than 10 minutes than actually providing a decent reading. I've found I do better on the Internet than over the phone anyway; I'm really not sure why. It shouldn't make a difference, but it does.

    Anyway, great post!