“Who Done It? The Medium Knows”

“Who Done It? The Medium Knows!”

by Carolyn Marie Wilkins

I have been talking to dead people since 1996. This behavior is considered an oddity bordering on mental illness by many people. So you can understand why I avoided writing about subjects that that might call attention to my psychic skills for many years.
Instead, I wrote about myself, my family, and our complicated relationship to African-American history. My first book, Damn Near White: An African American Family’s Journey from Slavery to Bittersweet Success, is a memoir about my grandfather J. Ernest Wilkins, the first African American to be appointed a U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor. The next book, They Raised Me Up: A Black Single Mother and the Women Who Inspired Her, focused on the women in my family, many of whom were musicians.
Even with these “non-spiritual” nonfiction books, I knew I was being guided by the voices of my ancestors. In dreams, I would receive inspiration about where to look for a crucial piece of information. During my research, I cannot count the number of times I was intuitively guided to find the perfect source, book, or magazine article necessary to tell the story I wanted to tell. At some level, writing history books for me had become another form of mediumship.
After I finished the two memoirs, however, I was ready to move on. Like every other psychic I knew, I adored murder mysteries. I’d been figuring out “who done it” on everything from Agatha Christie to Perry Mason for years. Why not write a mystery of my own? For my first fiction book, I made it a point to follow Mark Twain’s famous dictum – “write what you know.” Bertie Bigelow, the central character in my novel Melody For Murder is an African American music teacher who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, just as I did. When one of her students is accused of murder, Bertie sets out to prove his innocence.
While writing this book, I took a class in mediumship given by James Van Praagh, a TV psychic and co-executive producer of the popular Ghost Whisperer series. Spending two weeks in a class with seventy-five other aspiring mediums gave me the confidence to address psychic themes in my next book. Mojo for Murder tells the story of the hexes, hoaxes, and hijinks that ensue when a 300-pound Jamaican psychic advises Bertie Bigelow about her love life.
Writing these mysteries was big fun. But after my two Bertie Bigelow books, I felt my ancestors calling me once again. I’d shared a great deal of family history in my first two books. But I had yet to write about the earliest ancestor in my family line. My great-great-grandfather Jeremiah McFarland was a skilled furniture maker who purchased his freedom from a Kentucky slave master and moved with his family to Evansville, Indiana around 1860. By 1920, ancestors from both sides of my family tree had lived in this rowdy and rollicking river town. Evansville at that time had a fabulously corrupt government, a notoriously dangerous cohort of gangsters and bootleggers, and the largest Ku Klux Klan membership North of the Mason Dixon line. The colorful setting alone should have gotten my creative juices flowing. I should have been excited at the prospect of writing a book about my Evansville ancestors. But for some reason, I couldn’t get beyond the first chapter. Maybe I lacked discipline. Or maybe, I was just too busy with my mediumship.
In 2018, I traveled to England to study at the Arthur Findlay College of Psychic Science. Staffed and maintained by the Spiritualist church, the College is housed in a 350-room castle that would not be out of place in a Harry Potter novel.
The modern Spiritualist Church traces its beginnings to 1848. In the farm town of Hydesville, in Upstate New York, Maggie and Katie Fox heard a strange rapping sound emanating from the walls in their home. Believing the sounds were made by a discarnate spirit, the sisters began to communicate with the entity, who told them he had been murdered in the home many years earlier. When human remains were discovered in the basement of their home, the girls became celebrities. But from its very inception, the movement was embroiled in controversy. In 1888, Katie Fox renounced Spiritualism and, for $1,500, a staggering sum in those days, confessed to being a fraud, but recanted her confession the following year.
Nonetheless, while my great-grandmother was raising her five children in a dilapidated Evansville tenement in 1920, the Spiritualist movement had over two million adherents.
People of all social classes, from the wealthy to the common worker held seances in their parlor, sitting holding hands around the dining room table in the dark, waiting for the spirit world to make an appearance. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, the most “scientific” detective in history, held seances in his home.
During the summer months, many Spiritualists headed to camps in the country where they could worship while enjoying the beauties of nature. The only difference between a Spiritualist service and an old-fashioned Baptist camp meeting would have been the presence of mediums. At Camp Chesterfield, a short drive from my great-grandmother’s home in Evansville, worshippers interested in contacting their dearly departed could schedule a sitting with one of the thirty mediums available to perform this service.
Although my ancestors were not Spiritualists, the women on my mother’s side of the family are highly psychic – endowed with an eerie ability predict future events. Was there some way I could write something that combined my ancestral history with my passion for the mystical arts?
When I discovered that Camp Chesterfield was home to some of the most notoriously fraudulent mediums in the history of Spiritualism, I found my answer. I knew I would make this colorful area the setting for my next mystery.
The book is called Carrie Makes Trouble and is scheduled for release by Pen-L Publishing in November, 2019. Here’s a short preview:
Carrie McFarland’s psychic gifts land her in hot water wherever she goes. As an African-American teenager living in the Ku Klux Klan-controlled town of Aronsville, Indiana, she knows that the slightest miscalculation could prove fatal. She’s already been fired from her previous job for putting a Love Hex underneath her wealthy employer’s pillow. When Carrie finds a job cleaning house for an eccentric Spiritualist, she hopes her troubles are over at last. But when one of the guests drops dead during her new employer’s weekly séance, Carrie finds herself accused of murder. To keep her neck out of the hangman’s noose, Carrie McFarland must chase a vicious killer through a shadowy maze of con men, thugs and bootleggers.
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Carolyn Marie Wilkins is a healer, an intuitive counselor, a psychic medium, and a professor at Berklee College of Music. A Reiki Master since 1996, Carolyn has spent more than twenty years engaged in the study of spirituality, energy and healing. She has studied at the Arthur Findlay College of Psychic Arts in Stansted, England, and is a member of renowned English medium Mavis Pittilla’s Boston Mentorship Program.
As a musician, Carolyn has performed in the Pittsburgh Symphony and represented her country as a Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. State Department. She is also the author of five books –Damn Near White and They Raised Me Up (published by the University of Missouri Press) Melody for Murder and Mojo for Murder (Pen-L Publishing), and Tips for Singing (Hal Leonard Press).
In addition to her private practice in healing and mediumship, Carolyn is the host of Carolyn’s Psychic Playroom, a New Age Talk Show, on Cambridge Community Television.
To find out more about Carolyn, visit her website: www.carolynwilkins.com
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Evansville map:  By Uploader created this image using a U.S. Census Bureau map image from Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Wall Maps: November 2004., Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19307084
Arthur Findlay Collegehttps://www.arthurfindlaycollege.org/gallery/
Fox Sisters:  Missouri Historical society:  https://mohistory.org/collections/item/resource:141751
Camp Chesterfield photoshttps://blog.history.in.gov/mesmerism-rappings-trance-speaking-spiritualism-in-indiana/
Carolyn Marie Willis photo:  Author’s collection