NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD
Vanity Fair, March 1995
Rosemary Altea is a psychic medium who talks to the spirits
But how do you explain the number of earthbound C.E.O.'s, editors,
fashion designers, and Manhattan socialites who are listening?
By Matthew Tynauer
But no longer.
Her Grandma Eliza had suffered the Dickensian horrors of the Towers, a madhouse in central England. So when Rosemary Altea began hearing voices in the night she was terrified. "and as the voices grew much stronger throughout my life," she says, "I thought I was going to crack up. It was my major concern that I never be discovered."
Thirteen years ago, after the spirit of a 150-year-old "crazy Apache Indian chief" named Grey Eagle entered her body "in a trance on a Wednesday evening," this poised, 40-ish lady from Worlaby, England, discovered her true calling. She is a psychic medium, a person who can talk to the dead and even learn the future from them. Altea's dark secret has become her greatest gift.
Next month, when Warner Books publishes her autobiography, The Eagle and the Rose, she's likely to become very famous, but among New York's high spirits Altea is already a cause celebrity. C.E.O.'s, publishers, editors, and various arbiters of culture speak through her - for $200 an hour - to their dead relatives and friends, getting advice on real-estate deals, stock trades, divorce settlements, career plans, family matters, and.....destiny. Not since astrologer Joan Quigley helped Nancy Reagan navigate her presidency has a cosmic explorer wielded such influence on so many decision-makers in America.
Dinner parties and luncheon tables are sometimes overtaken by rounds of the latest Rosemary gossip. Altea's disciples speak sotto voce about how Michael Ainslie, the former president of Sotheby's, received the spirit of J. Leslie Rollins, his Harvard Business School mentor; how underwear designer Josie Natori encountered her dead grandmother, and was surrounded by apparitions of "pricey silk knickers"; how the wife of a Greenwich, Connecticut, C.E.O. makes real-estate deals with the tips supplied by her dead sister; about the time Elle editorial director Amy Gross tried to contact her old boss Leo Lerman and heard instead from her friend Michael O'Donoghuem the comedy writer; how actress Lois Chiled was surrounded by a cacophonous group of dead friends during a pool-side lunch at the Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles; and how a meeting with Rosemary at the William Morris Agency in New York was interrupted by a theatrical rep named Esther Sherman, who had died three weeks before and returned to complain about the hasty way her office was cleared out.
"There are always people that I can see around me from the spirit world," says Altea, explaining the way her powers work. "They tap me on the shoulder and ask if I might give a message to someone nearby. It's something about my aura; they know I am a communicator, that I will hear them - their sound actually seeps through my skin."
When I visited her, she claimed to see a man who fit the description of my uncle Sam. "He tells me he died of cancer when you were eight," she began. That was correct. "And he says to tell you that he did not die....," she said looking into an abyss in the approximate region of my forehead. Later on, when Sam, appeared again, she said he was holding a single lock of my hair. The gesture resonated - my parents told me my uncle had saved a lock of hair from my childhood.
Josie Natori said that she "had the sense that there was someone around me" when Altea reported that her grandmother was nearby. "She said, 'I see this lovely woman behind you.' This basically scared the hell out of me and, of course, I burst into tears. I've always been afraid of death, and when someone says there's a dead person behind you, it's a very weird sensation. Afterward, I went to look for a church. I said, "Oh my God, I better go pray."
Many of Altea's clients forgo the sweaty-palmistry of person-to-person contact and employ her services over the phone. "It works rather well," she says, explaining how the spirits know the way to her home, and are apparently very willing to make the trip to be able to communicate with loved ones who have not yet joined them.
From her mentor, Grey Eagle, Altea has learned that spirits live forever, and that "life on the earth plane lasts for a blink of an eye, but we are all eternal spirits, and we can't separate ourselves from that - we go on living forever."
"It's very comforting," says William Morris agent Joni Evans, who negotiated Altea's $150,000 book contract and who has become one of Altea's biggest boosters. "Once you see that there is a plan for all of us, life seems more peaceful," she adds.
"What she does is phenomenal," says Anne Sutherland Fuchs, senior vice president of the Hearst Magazines Division. "This woman has extraordinary powers and makes sense. She has told me some very, very personal things that no one knows. Not even my mother!"
Even those who still tread the borderline of devotion and disbelief tend to be very impressed by her accuracy. Michael Ainslie, who met her when she came to speak at a forum for the Young Presidents Organization of corporate leaders, says, I guess at this point I am confused by what she did. I have never thought that any of us could operate on another level of consciousness.... but she went into amazing depth. It felt to me that a spirit was right there over my shoulder at the time and she was able to communicate with him."
Altea herself seems somewhat baffled by the acclaim in New York City. Everyday life in Worlaby is not nearly so grand. There she works as an earthly agent for the spirit world, healing the souls of the sick and dying through her organization, The Rosemary Altea Association of Healers, which employs about 40. You can't help but think that Altea much prefers the cool flightiness to the social whirl. Too much attending to the stock portfolios of the aerobicized and surgically perfected seems to make her cross. "When I have a client who is overly interested in business and finance, I will look at them and say, Let's get to the real issue, and that is the man you are inside," she says beatifically. And though Grey Eagle is allegedly a sure shot at predicting stock and bond markets, she seems to think it would be frivolous to put him through a special Vanity Fair - administered test. "If I were to smooth the path and leave no wrinkles," Grey Eagle told her to tell V.F., "where would the learning be?"
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