Audio: Seance at Hermann-Grima House borrows a page from local history
New Orleans after dark skews toward the spiritual, and it always has. Otherworldly explorations have long been a part of our history. This year the Hermann-Grima House has teamed up with the Tennessee Williams Festival to look into this fascinating aspect of New Orleans lore. As part of their investigation, they have invited local spiritual medium Juliet Pazera to lead a Victorian-style séance at this historic home in the French Quarter. We sat down recently with Juliet to talk about what she does, and what to expect at the séance.
So tell us what you do as a psychic or spiritual medium.
I tune in, and usually I like to almost be in a very relaxed and receptive state, I would say almost like a trance, and I’m able to see things and hear things that go beyond the normal realm of experience.
Were you born with an affinity for this?
I’ve always been interested in spirituality and spirits, as a child even, in New York. And I actually played with spirits when I was a kid. A lot of parents will say it’s an imaginary friend. It’s funny because I played with this old woman who was outside in the woods behind our house. I could see her just like I’m seeing you right here.
I went to massage school out in Tucson and I studied a lot of healing arts. I also have a bachelor’s in history from Maris College in Poughkeepsie. I used to do readings for friends just for fun. And lo and behold, some friends would approach me a few months later and say, oh my god, everything you told me came true. I would laugh. And a lot of them would say, why aren’t you doing readings professionally? Why aren’t you a professional psychic? I was like, well, I don’t know if the time is right. I just kind of do it on the side.
Now the funny thing is, there was a famous psychic one time, traveling around the country, who happened to be in Tucson. I made an appointment with him because I actually had a lot going on in my life and I could find a little guidance would be helpful, too. Anyway, I went to see this psychic and he was at a hotel in a conference room. I go in and I sit down and the first thing he said to me, and this is no lie, he said, when are you going to start doing this for a living? And I hadn’t even uttered one word to him yet. So he sensed I had a gift.
When did you come to New Orleans?
I moved to New Orleans in January, 2002. I visited with my brother in the year 2000. He was in Wisconsin, I was in Tucson and we met here. I felt so comfortable; I walked around the French Quarter like I had definitely been here before. And I’m thinking past life connection or something like that.
I did work at a place in the French Quarter for three years before Katrina. I did readings full time and that was a way to sharpen all my skills. I could end up doing a reading for someone right when they sat down. I didn’t even need to have the cards or the palm. The information would just start flowing. I would see images and hear things. It was a little overwhelming at times, but very poignant and very powerful.
We all lost our jobs because of Katrina. There was a time when I was very indecisive about returning to New Orleans. But I felt like my heart was supposed to be here, so I moved back in January of 2006. I worked at the Notarial Archives Research Center here for seven years after Katrina and just resigned in 2014. But I do have a really interesting schedule now. I do some tour guide work, cemeteries, and I also have private clients. I have a website and I keep busy scheduling readings and doing special events for hotels and conventions here in town. It’s pretty extraordinary.
Is New Orleans a particularly welcoming city for this kind of work? Because it seems to me, we’re all pretty much in tune with our spiritual selves here.
New Orleans has such a fascinating history, the mix of different cultures and different people. It’s very open and receptive to spirituality and to anything having to do with the psychic arts. I just feel that people, tourists when they come to town, a lot of them also find it very appealing to have a psychic at their event. A conference, perhaps for even scientists, may end up having a psychic.
For the Hermann-Grima House event, you’re going to be following a talk by Melissa Daggett, the author of Spiritualism in New Orleans, who has researched the interest in the supernatural among free people of color in the mid-nineteenth century. Talk a little bit about Victorian seances.
Well, we have to look at that time period. Post-Civil War and the Reconstruction there was so much death; people needed answers. Spiritualism was a way to try to contact loved ones and to find out if they were at peace and if there was an afterlife. It was a very soul-searching experience. Mary Todd Lincoln was actually into spiritualism. I believe there’s speculation that Abraham Lincoln did allow a séance at the White House. Also, theosophy was popular at the time. And there was also a belief in reincarnation. But what happens to the spirit, what happens to the soul after we depart? Spiritualism was trying to give peace to the living who had to go on with their lives without their loved one, if that makes sense. And I’m actually holding Melissa’s book right here. I remember when she came in to the research center years ago. I remember finding documents for her. I think it’s interesting that this has come full circle and now we’re collaborating on this project.
Tell me how the Hermann-Grima séance is going to be done.
I went to the Hermann-Grima House yesterday. I saw how the table’s going to be set up. Normally, there’s a lot of candlelight, but because it’s a historic building, I’ll settle for one candle in a hurricane lamp. But generally, we call that the element of fire. I also need a bowl of water and a crystal ball nearby, because a lot of times faces of spirits will show up in the water. I will be in a very relaxed state. And normally, I can put myself into a trance rather quickly. It only takes a few moments. There will be other people sitting at the table with me, and we will see which spirits want to come through, if any. I may hear a name or see something. Or someone may feel something. Generally, we will feel a presence, especially in such an old historic property.
Hermann-Grima House goes back to 1831. Is that a pretty favorable environment for this?
Absolutely, it is the perfect setting. The Hermann-Grima House, with all its unique history and the vibrations of the families who have lived there, that energy can stay. And if there’re any spirits who feel that they do want to speak up, or speak out, we’ll be there to hear them and perhaps help them in some way, too, to get their message across.
Are spirits environmentally linked, or linked to certain people? In other words, does the séance depend on where you are or who’s there, or both?
I actually think a séance can vary on many different circumstances. It is best to have people be very open and believe. Belief is so important, to not have any skepticism, or negativity blocks. Whenever I read, I am just totally open like an open vessel for the information from the universe that wants to come through. We’re going to do a very formal seance, which is a little different than what I normally do. And it’s interesting because some of the participants, they may have a grandmother, grandfather, or loved one who have passed, and sometimes that spirit wants to come through more than the spirits attached to the property. So I am open to whatever wants to come through that day.
And you hear these voices clearly and you see images in the water that other people probably don’t.
That’s correct. I can see other images, too. But the water is very popular. It’s a way of scrying, which is a way of fortune telling. When you’re in that relaxed state, it’s interesting what can show up in water. And I believe Nostradamus practiced an art like that, too, the candle by the clear bowl of water.
What’s is like to be a psychic?
I think it’s really interesting, people want to test you. The thing is, if someone calls me to make an appointment, I already start getting information from them. So a few years ago, I started writing everything down, and when I meet with them in person, I give them that envelope. It’s sealed up, and I say, these are my pre-reading notes. I actually get information right away, like even just making the appointment on the phone. Or even through the website booking, I’ll just see their name and I’ll start getting waves of information coming through. I’ll see things, hear things.
A psychic has a really strong sense of perception. All our senses are very, very sharp. For some person I’m tuning in with, I might smell something. I might smell a perfume, and their grandmother wore a certain perfume that smelled like roses and lavender, or something like that. I may all of a sudden hear something. Or again, being clairvoyant, I definitely see things, too. Sometimes, I really believe that it depends on the person and how the information comes to them, and then it comes to me stronger. Like if they’re a person who hears things really well and is very perceptive with their sense of hearing, when I start tuning in with them, I may start hearing things.
Is every seance unique?
Yes, absolutely. There’s no doubt about that. Everyone will contribute who’s at this table with me. Sometimes spirits will show up in a very subtle, subtle way. I want people to really pay attention to that. Sometimes it’s just a little change in the temperature of a room. You may feel a cold spot. Or some people feel something, all of a sudden they get really hot. Sometimes people will get chills. And also, I say pay attention to how the candle flickers.
Are most spirits that you encounter neutral or good or bad?
I really think it does depend on the spirit. I have encountered some that were not very nice. I had done an event one time, Halloween night, like 5 or 6 years ago. We were set up at Broussard’s patio, which is just lovely. But the interesting thing is, this woman’s alcoholic father really came through, and he was very abusive. I was almost scared of him. It was very powerful. I felt very disoriented after this reading for this woman. I got up to use the restroom and I had to go through this little doorway. A waitress was carrying a tray of glasses. When I walked past her, the glasses shattered and she dropped the tray. The vibration was that high. I kept trying to replay that in my mind. Did she drop the tray first and then all the glasses shattered? And it was like, no, when I walked by, the glasses shattered and then the tray dropped.
What do you think most spirits are trying to tell people through seances?
I believe a seance message, or spirit message, can be anything. It can be something complicated. It can be, I want to come back. I want to reincarnate. I’m waiting for a baby so I can come back through. It can be, I’m not coming back. I’m done. I need a break. I’m not ready to return. I like being a disembodied spirit. Yes, I will help you.
I’m really into the connection with ancestors. I believe it is so important to be aware of our ancestors and to thank our ancestors. Most people would like to contact someone they have known, or at least have some reassurance about their ancestors. I believe, too, ancestors can help us with things. I try to leave an offering to the ancestors once a month.
We’re in such a technological, digital, scientific age. Do people believe still, or not so much?
I find it absolutely fascinating that even the most skeptical people will be willing to give it at least a little chance. I’ve been doing psychic readings for 20 years, professionally pretty much. Once in a while you’ll get a skeptic, but like I said, once you tell them something that really resonates with them, they totally change their tune.
Everything is frequency and if you find the right frequency to tune in with someone, you can read their vibration and tune in with them. And I really feel that a lot of us are emitting a certain frequency and vibration, and it’s just a matter of being able to tune in with that. And once you tune in, the past can show up, something very significant.
What do people say when you tell them you’re a psychic?
All of my friends and family find it absolutely fascinating. And some of them will tease me about it. We have a big family. They are not surprised because they always thought I was a really unique child and kid, that I looked at the world a little differently. So I would say they’re absolutely not surprised.
A lot of people, they want me to read them right away, like right when they meet me. And they’re like, oh my god, what do you see around me? And that’s kind of funny. Sometimes I do try to turn it off, because I need to function in the real world, too.
Do you think most of us have the ability to tune in, if we just would or could?
That’s a great question. I believe, truly in my heart of hearts, that everyone is intuitive. Everyone. Now they don’t always listen to it, that’s the thing. Intuition is like a muscle; you must keep working at it. I recommend that people try to find out what senses are stronger for them. Are you more clairsentient, where you need to feel it? Are you more clairaudient, where the message is going to come through something you hear? Are you clairvoyant, where you’re going to see something? Pay attention to everything. Notice every little sign, every little symbol, everything. Even pay attention to your dreams. We’re constantly being bombarded with all kinds of information from the universe. But do we listen to it, or pay attention to? I say a majority of people just don’t pay attention to it.
Are there any spirits at Hermann-Grima House that you know of?
I felt spirits right when I walked in. I felt a really intense man right away, patrolling. He was just very stern and he was almost like, what are you doing here? Within three minutes of me walking into a room or building, the lower part of my legs will get like bricks, like heavy. That is just a way my body picks up on spirits. Everyone will be different, but my legs, actually almost like walking through mud, and I’m like wow, there’s a spirit trying to get my attention, like right away. And it happened at Hermann-Grima House.
Soul Searching: A Victorian-style Seance
- What: "Soul Searching: A Victorian-Style Seance," presented in partnership with the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. Melissa Daggett, author of Spiritualism in New Orleans: The Life and Times of Louis Henry Rey, will speak about her research on interest in the supernatural among Creoles of color in the mid-19th century when the community of free people of color were undergoing radical shifts in social standing. Afterward, Juliet Pazera will discuss her background as a spiritual medium and then a table of six participants will follow her lead in a seance.
- Where: In the double parlor of the Hermann-Grima Historic House, 820 St. Louis St.
- When: Thursday, March 23 at 3 p.m.
- Tickets: Individual tickets for the talks are $25 per person at the Tennessee Williams festival's website. Two of the seats at the seance table will be auctioned at the March 10 fundraiser at the Hermann-Grima House, "Amazing Grapes." Or click here to bid for a seance spot online.
Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.