By CASEY CORA
Published November 1, 2006
Retired New York City police officer Joe Lani is haunted. There's too many oddities in his daily life to convince him otherwise. Lani, 47, witnessed the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. In the following months, his job was to sift through rubble and human remains at New York City's Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, scouring the remnants for anything that could identify those lost in the attacks. Shortly afterward, in February 2002, the 250-pound police officer suffered a "particularly bad" heart attack. He thinks being so close to death - figuratively and literally - afforded him a sixth sense. "It changes your whole life," he said. "The way you think and what you think." The spirits, he said, are with him at both his Staten Island home and Clearwater condominium. In Staten Island, the kitchen would occasionally smell of smoke, like that of a fireman's coat. Someone, not him, plays his drum kit in the middle of the night. Wall clocks repeatedly stopped at 8:45 a.m., the time the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. Driving around the neighborhood, he said he feels a pressure entering through his back, then exploding out through his chest. "Boom. Right through me," he said. In Clearwater, fingernails tap at the 10th floor window of his condominium. A few nights ago, something tapped his head while he slept.
"Never, ever, ever, did I get such a chill," he said. Two chandeliers, one in Staten Island and one in Clearwater, fell from the ceiling within three days of one another. Then came the pictures. While fixing up his New York home, he decided to take some pictures to document the progress of the renovations. Thumbing through them later, he noticed things were out of sorts, like the plumes of smoke that spell out his name in thin air, or the ghostly image of a dog that appeared in a New York Fire Department truck. "I challenge any photographer to take up discrepancies," he said. His wife, Carol, supported her husband but didn't necessarily believe him, at first. "I'm one of those common sense type of people," she said. "But I see pictures and can't disagree with him." Lani's search for answers brought him to the Bayou Centre strip mall on Belcher Road in Pinellas Park, at a small store called Psychics in the City. "He was totally freaked out," said Andrea Angelikoussis, 48, the store's owner and resident clairvoyant. "A lot of those spirits didn't die restful," she explained through the wafting Nag Champa incense. "I feel a lot of spirits attached to Joe." Angelikoussis suggested that Lani "smudge" his home, a "cleansing" practice where dried sage is bundled and burned throughout one's home. But Lani didn't want to set off any smoke detectors or antagonize any of the spirits. And he knows all of this sounds crazy. "If I run into the street and tell the Clearwater police there's spirits in my house, I'd be locked up," he said. But Lani and "Psychic Andrea" remain convinced. They said the spirits, whatever they are, are not tormenting him. Angelikoussis thinks he is going through a healing phase with the 9/11 souls. Lani said he's learning to live with them. "I feel like I'm guided," Lani said. "I feel safe."
"I sit them down and give them a five- to 10-minute healing to balance them out," Mercer says. Free. Business doubled in November for Ptah Ankh Heru, Psychic of the Ages, who also is Pamela O'Brien, ordained minister. Most of that business has been online. These days, Ptah fields as many questions about finances as she does relationships. Most go something like this: "Am I going to keep my job?" or "Is my boyfriend going to find a job?" She doesn't try to predict the stock market, but Ptah likes to offer a little advice for those searching for the next big thing. "Go green," she advises. "That's where billions of dollars are going to be spent. Save the planet. Save us, and make some money." Ptah works for Psychics in the City owner Andrea Angelikoussis, whose Pinellas Park shop is booked at least a month in advance, mostly by customers new to the psychic world. "The economy is bad, but business is not," says the numerologist, who can be heard every Thursday morning on WMTX-FM, Mix 100.7's "Nancy & Chris Show." For many, it's a need to reach out, to confide in someone, she says. "People need to hear they're going to be OK."
Some people ask about their jobs - whether they'll find one or they'll lose the one they've got. Others fret about making the mortgage or salvaging their 401(k). "You can just see the look on their face," says Cissy Mercer, a spiritual healer in St. Petersburg. "They're kind of scattered and all uptight, which is normal with the economy like it is. "They're worried. We all are." So worried, they're flocking to Mercer and other Tampa Bay area psychics and mediums for guidance that used to come from career or financial advisers. Lisa McKown is a regular at Mercer's shop, The Enchanted Forest. She recently went back to school to study health care administration because "that's where the jobs are these days." "My main concern," says McKown, 47, of St. Petersburg, "is the money going to be there? Is it always going to be there?" Psychics and mediums nationwide are experiencing a boon, says Rosemary McArthur, aka the Celtic Lady. Founder of the American Association of Psychics in Colorado, she oversees similar organizations in Canada and the United Kingdom. Since October, her business - mostly telephone readings - has increased by 5 percent. "People are in fear," she says. Instead of focusing on long-dead relatives or unfaithful lovers, customers in crisis want to know about the future of their money or whether they should hang on to their businesses. McArthur doesn't tell people how to spend their money - no reputable psychic does, she says - but she does try to soothe their souls, teaching them to let go of the stress and negativity and focus, instead, on what's really important. "I've become like a counselor instead of a medium," she jokes. That's how Mercer, a spiritual healer, feels when she sees frazzled clients show up for readings. This time last year, their biggest concern was how to pay the Christmas bills. Now they're facing losing everything.
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