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Ghostbuster Redux

[whitespace] salt

A special kind of cleaning for that occasional nagging spirit in the house

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

Times were when you wanted to get rid of a ghost, you'd trot down to a Catholic church to locate a priest who could perform a centuries-old exorcism ritual. After the Dan Aykroyd/Bill Murray movie, there were some people who actually thought a couple guys with jet-propelled slime canisters could eliminate the haunts in their houses.

But now it's the New Age, and this is Willow Glen. For help in chasing away unwanted spirits, look to the Academy for Psychic Studies in its storefront offices on Lincoln Avenue.

"We're like the ghostbusters, although I guess that's not the best term," the Rev. Sandy Caven says. She prefers the terms "energy." Or "vibration." "When someone moves into a new home, it's set up for the last person's vibration," she says. "It's almost like they've left their furniture behind or their pictures on the wall. We just strip it of the old vibrations, and then people can set it up any way they want." Like everyone at the academy, Caven is big on earnest eye contact. I feel like my soul is being searched while I'm conducting my interview.

Caven is in charge at the academy tonight. She has rushed out to meet me before I can even get in the door, and her hushed tones make me lower my own voice to a respectful whisper. I guess she doesn't want me to disturb the session inside. Several women are seated in chairs in the main room, eyes closed and glowing with beatific smiles as other women pass waffling hands over invisible barriers surrounding their bodies.

A student at the classes, Donna Hart, says that the academy has helped her clear out entities in two houses, once in Milpitas and later when she moved to Berkeley.

"The first time, I was still living with my ex-husband," Hart says. "There was a lot of animosity in the house. We had a lot of fights. There was depression ... a heavy kind of energy."

Hart says that her ex-husband reluctantly agreed to participate in the academy's healing ritual, which ended late in the evening. At about 3 in the morning, she heard noises coming from her kitchen, as if something were rattling the silverware. "I believe it was one of the so-called entities," she says. "It was leaving the house, taking the bad energy with it."

Hart later divorced and moved to Berkeley, and immediately encountered problems in her next house.

"When I opened the front door, I would tense up, like you would if you were expecting something to smack you," says Hart, who describes herself as a clairvoyant. She learned that her house had previously been occupied by male university students. "It had this heavy male energy that I wanted to get rid of," she says. "In the back room, it felt like they had been doing porno stuff. And I kept having the sensation in the house that a young man was right behind me, staring at me." An academy-sponsored ritual cured that. "Now when I come home I can say, 'Hello, house.' It's all mine. It's comfy, with loving thoughts."

She declines my request to visit her new house and feel the new vibes myself. I don't know; I suppose my male energy is showing.

The means that the academy uses to drive bad spirits out of houses is an ancient one: salt.

"Salt is a preservative," says the Rev. Angela Silva of Berkeley, who runs the nonprofit Spiritual Rights Foundation that runs the Willow Glen Academy and another in the East Bay. "It can hold a charge of energy." By telephone, Silva tells me that in something she calls a salt ritual, academy psychics and clairvoyants, as well as the home's new occupant, meditate over salt to charge it with positive energy. "After dark we go into the house with the salt, and we go into a light trance. Then we sprinkle the salt all over the house. We leave the windows and doors open, so all of the negative energy can get out. Some of this negative energy can be an angry spirit. It can be a spirit that's been trapped in a negative vibration; spirits can hang around after things like murders. We communicate with the spirit. And the next day, some of the salt disappears, and there's a lightness in the house. It's good for 100 years."

And at prices starting at $75 a room. Well, Caven explains, "it takes several hours to charge up that much salt."

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From the October 29-November 4, 1998 issue of Metro.

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