You’ve seen them everywhere: adult psychics. They bend our local spoons and hide messages in our worst cookies. But how did they get here? Can anything stop them? Let’s answer your first question first: In 1988, Litany Burn wrote a book called Develop Your Child’s Psychic Abilities. It was so effective I have some bad news about your second question: my parents were one of her customers and I will crush your mind with the spidery legs of your own nightmares.
Litany Burn is a clairvoyant and healer who represents herself with this drawing on the Nyack section of goop.com. Incidentally, the phrase “Nyack section of goop” comes from the sound Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina makes as it is lowered around a hand-dyed ostrich egg. In the intro, Litany claims to be “accredited to teach psychic awareness by the New York State public school system,” but I found no Google results for “accredited to teach psychic awareness” or “psychic awareness accreditation.” This can only mean after she became the first and only “Official New York Public School Psychic Teacher” she then erased all traces of it from our minds. The other possibility, that it’s a dumb fantasy told by an obvious grifter financially incentivized to lie, is simply too impossible to consider.
Before Develop Your Child’s Psychic Abilities, Litany wrote Develop Your Psychic Abilities, and then she wrote each book again. And then wrote the psychic child one a third time. She went five books without ever having a second idea and her first idea seems to be hoping someone will one day be born with powers and then claiming they owe her 15% of them as an agency fee. After thirty years as a psychic teacher in a world with no psychics, the only thing Litany has taught anyone is that hard work and perseverance are pointless if your head is up your own delusional ass. Which itself is just a knockoff of the lesson we already learned from Corey Feldman’s music career.
This is the only time the reader hears about the amazing Kaarlo and this is his story told in its entirety. About a third of the book is little anecdotes like this– definitely made up yet still dull and inconclusive. Litany has a con-artist’s instincts to keep her tales of the fantastic believable. She doesn’t invent a boy named Kaarlo who can fly. All Kaarlo can do is guess who is on the phone and imply it’s supernatural. This makes the reader feel like their good guesses might have been psychic powers this whole time. There’s also a theme of oppression in all of Litany’s stories, as if Kaarlo would still have magical caller ID abilities today if his family wasn’t a bunch of unsupportive dicks. She complains about things like how schools don’t nurture psychic abilities like they do academic or athletic talent. The overall message of the book is how you would have been able to read minds if you had grown up around people who let you try. It’s like saying you would be a centaur right now if your stupid parents got you the horse and sewing machine you asked for.
Litany builds a fortress of excuses around her psychic learning program. She opens the book by saying all mutant children are different and the lessons are only “possibilities and suggestions that aid insight.” Usually a disclaimer tries to waive liability, but I guess when the thing you’re talking about doesn’t exist you waive disappointment instead.
You need to understand, any child can be psychic. Litany says psychic children can be “black, white, yellow, and brown” which is a turn of phrase used exclusively by and for the second color in that list. She herself has had a number of ordinary childhood experiences she interpreted as fantastic abilities. For instance, her dad once woke up “calling out the name of his favorite uncle, who was dying in an accidental fire three hundred miles away.” That’s all she mentions about that event before she spends a page bragging about how she sometimes played with a ouija board. Did her dad kill her uncle with deadly fire powers or simply sense him burning alive with useless death-sensing powers? She doesn’t say because she is a dingbat with the storytelling skills of a dog who watched you fall in a well and decided you belong there.
Please remember psychic science is not an exact science. If you use telekinesis to force a coin to land on a certain side, you’re going to fuck it up about half the time. But like all good science, Litany starts by knowing psychic powers work and dedicating her life to making excuses when they don’t. For instance, if Kaarlo guesses Cookie Monster is on the phone and he’s not, it might indicate ley line interference or -and this is a worst case scenario- you’re a fucking idiot. Or a cookie wizard is on your upstairs phone? The nice thing about psychic powers is there are no wrong answers.
It’s fun to imagine every coincidence as a psychic phenomenon, but there is some danger in believing whatever you want and explaining away all your wrongness with conspiracies and the supernatural. For instance, Litany has a large section of the book where she theorizes the rise in learning disabilities is tied to unreleased psychic powers. In other words, if your child doesn’t start levitating, it might cause autism. So if you went into this book thinking you and your kid were going to be doing fun card tricks, the stakes just went up.
It’s 87 pages into the book before Litany finally starts giving us exercises to train our powers. This one has you choose a time, say 6:23 am, and then see if your kid can heal a sick pet or a healthy tourist with their mind. But the line, “Check results when possible,” at the end sort of gives away her lack of confidence in us. If you want me to really believe I’m shooting healing waves into the night, maybe don’t add, “Oh, and if you have time, check to see if you’ve made veterinarian medicine obsolete, magic boy.” Is this sarcasm? Irresponsibility? Is my vet going to call at 6:24 am to say, “YOUR CAT! I-IT EXPLODED! EXPLODED!!! WHAT HAVE THESE HANDS DONE!?!?”
Most of the exercises involve staring at things and panting or telling your baby to place their hands on an object and release their negative energy into it. Assuming your baby understands what you mean by “negative energy” or “hands,” what then? Do I use a tire gauge to measure how much is left? Wouldn’t it require a +1 tire gauge or higher? What if my Jiffy Lube doesn’t have a Draenic blacksmith? Are my baby’s cursed psychic rays the reason my computer can’t ever find the printer? Litany was so certain none of this bullshit would work she didn’t bother answering any of these questions.
In Chapter 3: Invisible Friends and Visitors, Litany suggests imaginary friends are actual beings only your child can see. Holy shit, right? She even proves it by telling this story about someone named Cara who dreamed about a flying coach in a yellow hat. Still not convinced? Well, tough, because that’s the entire story. Look up in the night sky. Every moving light you can’t explain is a shard of Cara screaming upon reentry. You let her leave Earth with the yellow-hatted one before she finished her training and now you must watch her return from the stars in shattered pieces! I– look, I honestly can’t tell the tone Litany is going for sometimes. Cara might be fine.
There are a lot of ordinary things linked to psychic abilities in this book, but being able to point your wheelchair towards the one basketball in the room might be the least supernatural of them all. Is this an unthinkable skill? Is there a wheelchair basketball coach somewhere watching his players shoot off in random directions and shouting, “This is HOPELESS! I’d give my left nut for just one of you wheeled fucks to have a single precognitive mind power!”
Pablo saw his teacher reading a book on developing psychic powers and knew she would believe anything. Then Pablo, and here is the clever part, cheated on his math test. It worked so well the dingbat witch used it as anecdotal proof of metaphysics. “I don’t know what antelopal meat physics are,” said Pablo, “but I know you don’t need to be good at smart to trick a witch. Witches are five out of pizza stupid.”
I’m not sure what Litany was going for with this story, but who among us wouldn’t trade our intelligence and eating ability for a single moment of knowing when the bus is going to be late? As for Eddie knowing what his mother is thinking, that’s not so incredible. She only ever thinks the one thing: “Must resist! The temptation! To exploit my son’s bus powers!”
After 209 pages of astonishingly pointless stories and ways you can pretend to use the Force, Litany simply ends her book with an unexplained and unnumbered chapter called A CHILD’S WORLD. It’s five letters from kids, absolutely written by Litany herself, about dreams and imaginary friends. The one from “Tony, age 10” is addressed to himself and it’s about riding a big fluing hors with Jonney and then woking up. Why? In what world is this a suggestion of psychic ability? In what world is this anything? You won’t see me wrapping up an article by saying, “I saaw the worlds most stupid psycick lady pretend she wuz the worlbs dummest forth gradest. Uncomfable story nad then book did end.”